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Monday, August 9, 2010

A Prophet Was A Great Vision

A Prophet: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
Luciani: One more thing - Now that you know the plan, if you don't kill him, we will kill you.
A very well made film, set behind bars, as we follow a young protagonist who is forced to endure the hardships of prison. Early on a great deal of tension is established for his first year, which is followed up by a more crime family focus, akin to something like Goodfellas behind bars almost the entire time. The film is well made, but brutal; with a solid cast, a great handling of the cinematography, and very well made in all its other aspects.



Nineteen year-old Franco-Arab Malik El Djebena is just starting his six year prison sentence in Brecourt. Although he has spent the better part of his life in juvenile detention, this stint is his first in an adult prison. Beyond the division of Corsicans and Muslims in the prison (the Corsicans who with their guard connections rule what happens in the prison), he has no known friends or enemies inside. He is just hoping to serve his time in peace and without incident, despite having no prospects once he's out of jail since he's illiterate and has no support outside of the prison. Due to logistics, the head of Corsican inmates, a sadistic mafioso named César Luciani, co-opts Malik as part of the Corsicans' activities, not only regarding what happens inside the prison, but also continued criminal activities outside. The innocent Malik has no idea what to do but cooperate. This move does not sit well with the other Corsicans, who only see Malik as a dirty Arab, and the Muslims who now mistrust him. As time goes by, Malik does manage to become quite the hire up in this world, which may only help him to survive.

This film had me in its early plot development, as Malik has just arrived in prison and is forced to join the Corsicans by participating in a murder. The way the entire sequence is handled - the setup, the execution, and the effect on Malik afterward, was just a wonderful element of this movie. Following that, the shift that goes somewhat from prison thriller to prison mob business was still a fantastic watch.

Tahar Rahim as Malik is stellar. A young man forced to go through a lot of different dark places, but applying his abilities at being a fast learner, Rahim was always convincing in the role. The superb supporting cast, which includes Niels Arestrup as the seedy mob boss Luciani, also all aid greatly in this film.

Despite the dark material and harsh environment, this is a great looking film as well. Stark and cold on the inside of a prison, as it should, there is fantastic work done to make this film reflect its tone through its cinematography. There are some other elements to the film as well, highlighting some unique experiences that Malik goes through, which also work to heighten the visual experience.

This is really a great film, that I was just drawn into from the get-go.
Ryad: What are you? A prophet or something?

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