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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Film - A Prophet directed by Jacques Audiard

Star rating 9/10

French cinema was already on a high from the excellent Mesrine films last year, but this latest offering from Jacques Audiard in the shape of a brutal prison drama is a class act. Newcomer Tahar Rahim is terrific as Malik, a nineteen year old French Arab man, just about to get his first taste of the harsh world of adult prison life, after his youthful detention experiences. And be warned – it is a very violent film.

The terrified Malik is quickly nobbled by César , the Corsican prison Godfather, to either kill another Arab prisoner that he wants disposing of, or to be killed himself. Hobson’s choice – but Malik quickly learns that he needs all his wits about him if he is to survive.

And survive he does, mainly be becoming a lackey for César, brilliantly and terrifyingly portrayed by Niels Arestrup. Malik endures being treated like, and regularly referred to as, a dog by the Corsican prisoners who run the jail, but just as he gets an education in literacy from the prison authorities, he also gets an education in survival, as he quickly learns to bide his time, to quietly make useful alliances, and that revenge is a dish best served cold.

The film is long, at 155 minutes, but the action is gripping as we take every step of Malik’s brutal journey with him. A great soundtrack adds to the tension, with a superbly underplayed slow version of Mack the Knife over the closing credits courtesy of Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Very violent?– yes. Superb entertainment? – indeed. Best film of 2010 so far?– definitely.

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