The most remarkable thing about Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet (2009) is watching its main character go from nothing to something in a totally believable fashion, without missing a single step along the way.

Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) is a 19-year-old low-life who is sentenced to 6 years in prison for beating up some police officers. With no family, no friends, and being of Arab descent, he enters jail a loner and is easily singled out by the other inmates. It is because of his isolation and heritage that he is called upon by Corsican mob boss Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup) to murder a witness named Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi), who is also serving time at the institution.

Malik is reluctant at first, but is eventually forced into murdering Reyeb in his cell, and after doing so, falls under Cesar’s protection. Much of the film centers around Malik’s relationship to Cesar, his only means of connection to the outside world. Conflict between the two escalates as Cesar gives Malik more responsibilities and freedoms, and Malik attempts to make something for himself inside and outside the prison walls. The film is a delight for the audience as you watch Malik try to keep a balance between working for Cesar, keeping a rapport with his fellow Muslims in prison, and run his own drug smuggling operation through a friend and former inmate.

Audiard’s film brings itself above the typical crime genre fare by keeping you emotionally invested in Malik throughout the entire film. Much of this must be credited to newcomer Tahar Rahim who is awesome playing both vulnerable and hardass when the situation calls for it. The film also includes a level of mysticism to Malik’s character. He has visions of Reyeb that visit him often and on a few occasions dreams the future. These phenomenon are never explained or discussed within the film, but give the movie just a little flare of the unusual.

Many have compared A Prophet to The Godfather in that, it tells the story of a non-violent man brought into circumstances that turn him into a cold-blooded killer, but such comparisons are not really accurate. A Prophet is very much a French film and brings with it the slow pacing that many French dramas often have. By looking at the cover you’d almost expect the movie to play out like The Departed, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While each film is great in its own right, the two could not be less similar in pacing and execution. Never the less, for those who enjoy a great crime movie, and get a rush from watching movies made outside of the US, A Prophet is the perfect film to try.

Blu-ray Special Features:

The Blu-ray release looks great, and comes fully loaded with all the special features that you would want. Director and cast commentary, deleted scenes, and rehearsal footage abound.

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif
Director: Jaques Audiard
Runtime: 149 Minutes
Rating: R

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