A Prophet (Un Prophète)
Taking its lead from Muhammad’s mantra that ‘This world is a prison for the faithful, but a paradise for unbelievers’ Jacques Audiard’s new thriller is a disquieting portrait of ambition and progression uncontained by the cell door.
Callow, naïve youth Malik (Tahar Rahim) enters grown up prison with a view to keeping his head down for his six-year sentence. But murderous circumstance sees him aligned to the Corsican mafia who run the prison, led by scheming lynchpin Cesar (Niels Arestrup). The association brings Malik in to contention with the burgeoning population of Muslim inmates. As prison population demographics begin to shift the cunning Malik uses all his resources to elevate his financial and hierarchical status.
Plotted and executed with the slow burn complexity that lovers of The Godfather and The Sopranos will appreciate, A Prophet is a wonderfully mature piece of filmmaking. Building on themes of misplaced loyalties, minority polemics and the disease of free market economies at play in his outstanding previous films (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Read My Lips) writer and director Audiard elevates us above the grime with a nod towards fantasy. Albeit one proposed by the Gospels. Biblical allusions flash across the screen in the form of subtitled chapter headings while the ghosts of victims guide Malik through the prison wilderness. The point being, one supposes, that sometimes faith is all we have.
Paced with an all too rare grace and intelligence and boasting one of the finest assassination scenes ever committed to celluloid A Prophet could just make you a believer.
Selected release from Fri 22 Jan.