An unoriginal prison narrative is, in the hands of director Jacques Audiard (Rust & Bone, Dheepan), a gritty and uncompromising intrigue with a powerful central performance from (then newcomer) Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian, TV’s The Serpent).
Having spent most of his life in juvenile detention, nineteen year-old Algerian Malik El Djebena’s first taste of adult prison is the notorious Brécourt. Controlled by The Corsicans – with César Luciani (Niels Arestrup – The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Diplomacy) the head-honcho – a ‘small task’ finds Djebena a lacky at their beck-and-call. Forced to co-operate, but under protection, his allegiance places him at odds with the large Muslim group. But a survivor who knows the ropes, Djebena works his advantage both inside and outside the prison walls.
A Prophet is an episodic and surprisingly calm, almost poetic, unravelling of its narrative with occasional moments of extreme violence. Rahim, playing off perfectly against a threatening Arestrup, is monumental in a role that develops from a level of innocence and uncertainty into one of calculated menace.
Nominated for the 2010 best foreign language film Oscar.