A Prophet (2009)

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tahar Rahim in 'A Prophet'

Adapted by Thomas Bidegain and Jacques Audiard, original script by Abdel Raouf Dafri and Nicolas Peufaillit

Directed bt Jacques Audiard

Starring Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup

The story of an unassuming young thug who doesn’t seem to have the heart for the criminal life is thrust into a world of violence and animalistic survival when sent to jail for a 6 year jail stint. He is of mixed heritage with some Middle Eastern in him and thus is seen as a Muslim, though his lifestyle is secular. This places him in no man’s land within the jail’s factions and he must do everything he can to keep himself in everybody’s better, if not good graces and survive his relatively brief four year sentence. This quiet man is an unassuming young thug who turns into a confident prisoner rising through the ranks of small but moderately powerful criminal syndicates in both the French-Muslim community and the Corsican community.

The film is well made, but we’ve seen this story before. The lead character is somewhat bland for the purposes of being a vehicle for an archetypal story of criminal ascension. We’ve seen these characters before as well, but I suppose, as an American, to see it through the context of French society and social systems it gives the by-the-numbers crime saga a new twist. Day Passes out of prison provide for an interesting angle on the story but otherwise the outcome is standard and the path towards the ineveitable conclusion is engaging though not groundbreaking or particularly thought provoking.

Wrap your cliche furniture in new cloth and you’ve got A Prophet. Give your cliche a new haircut and you’ve got A Prophet. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not groundbreaking and for all the praise it attained, I wonder if A Prophet had been made in America, would it have received the same level of acclaim? Think about this when you watch it and perhaps you’ll feel differently when the closing credits begin.


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