A Prophet is a gripping French crime movie featuring an excellent cast and an even better story. We will be following a young man who through some fault of his own starts going down the wrong path in life. And once he does, there’s no stopping him. Right away I have to tell you that the running time of this movie is almost two and a half hours. This means it’s going to take up your whole evening. However, it will be worth it. I found it to be very disturbing and not because of something graphic but because of its believability.
The characters we meet feel like real people. And the decisions they make feel like the decisions I would’ve made in that situation. This brings us to another cool element and that’s the infamous “what would you do” question. Malik, our main character, will have to make some difficult decisions. At this point, I should tell you that A Prophet is a prison movie. It’s going to show you what would happen if you went to prison down to the smallest detail. The experience is immersive but also frightening.
We won’t waste any time on boring character development or anything of that matter. Wham bam and within the opening five minutes the stage will be set for the gripping first act. It’s so strong that I felt like the rest of the movie was a bit lacking in quality. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that all the technical details like camera work, cinematography and production values overall were excellent. Just as you would expect them to be in a French crime movie production. There were setting standards ever since their noir wave in the early seventies. And when it comes to prison movies, The Hole did that back in 1960.
Malik is a 19-year-old guy who’s about to go to jail for six years. This is his first time behind bars and it will be a traumatic one. He has no one on the outside to help him and the other inmates sense that he’s vulnerable. So, Malik will have to use all his wit and strength to get out of that place alive.
Intense and unpredictable, A Prophet creates this ominous atmosphere that just sucks you into the screen. This is an excellent character study delving deep into all kinds of emotions this type of lifestyle brings. On top of it all, we have rising racial and religious tensions contaminating life both on the inside and outside. And just to be clear, there will be some parts of the movie that take place outside the confines of the prison. Tahar Rahim was excellent as Malik along with Niels Arestrup as Cesar.
The whole dynamic reminded me of another good prison movie, Animal Factory. Although the atmosphere is more similar to the Australian prison thriller The Hard Word. So, if you’re looking for similar movies, I suggest you start there. Then you can move on to the French side of the story with Mesrine starring Vincent Cassel. Based on actual events, this is a sprawling crime saga encompassing several decades.
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Thomas Bidegain, Jacques Audiard, Abdel Raouf Dafri