A Prophet Screen 18 articles

A Prophet

2009

A Prophet Poster
  • This is still at bottom an exceedingly familiar tale that over the course of two and a half hours takes on a plodding, somewhat mechanical rhythm, as we watch Malik quietly manipulate a situation to his long-term advantage over and over again.

  • Genre specialist Jacques Audiard continues his fascination with the secret inner lives of Gaul's criminal underworld in "A Prophet," a tough, absorbingly intricate account of a young French-Arab thug's improbable education behind bars. Applying his jangly aesthetic to a broader canvas than usual, Audiard navigates his protagonist through a grotty, at times overcrowded labyrinth of racially divided gang factions and roughly sketched-in crooks and cons.

  • A beautifully made but not completely intellectually satisfying mirror on contemporary French upward mobility.

  • A Prophet continues Audiard’s fascination with criminality, but in trying to expand his vision to a larger, even more audacious canvas, his limitations are exposed. Because, while it’s dominated by a truly sensational – indeed, Oscar-worthy – lead performance by unknown Rahim, and is shot with a chilly brilliance by cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine, with a terrifically low-key score by Alexandre Desplat, A Prophet falls down on the crucial matter of the script.

  • Absent other perspectives—the prison system is corrupt or ineffectual; female characters are either madonnas or whores to a degree even more literal than usual for the genre—there’s naught to celebrate here save Malik’s ascent; and so, with formidable focus, A Prophet adds up to exactly the sum of its parts.

  • There are, as Anthony says in his review, many things that are right with the movie... Yet the story remains just that, merely a story: Malik’s inner life doesn’t exist (except for the absurdly narrow spectrum of scenes that depict his imaginings of encounters with the prisoner he killed). His transformation takes place because it’s written in the script, but is neither experienced by him nor by the viewer.

  • When it comes to hard-bitten crime cinema, Jacques Audiard has few equals in Europe, and his violent, gripping prison drama A Prophet shows him extending his range with unimpeachable command. The story of a gauche young inmate who rises through the criminal ranks to become a formidable player, A Prophet works both as hard-edged, painstaking detailed social realism and as a compelling genre entertainment.

  • There are all sorts of frameworks here, a patricidal Greek tragedy, a microcosm of the Arabs’ rise to power in France, a Burt Lancaster melodrama of a old man deluding himself of his power, a Rousseau-ian political allegory of men in chains from nature, and a Nietzschian religious allegory about pretending man-made structures are the dictates of god—and about the prophets who deliver the dictates.

  • This blistering French crime epic isn't just the natural successor to City Of God, with its sweeping plot, jawbone-shattering violence and trouser-troubling tension. It's within spitting distance of the classics. The Untouchables. Scarface. Goodfellas.

  • It’s easily the best film to come out of last year’s tepid Cannes—or maybe several Cannes. Advisably or not, director Jacques Audiard had delivered a kind of a how-to Scarface without the tiger in the backyard; even though this Gallic crime-specialist (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) has distanced himself from such comparisons, they’re there for the taking. And yet, A Prophet is redeemed by its intellect.

  • Audiard's two-hour-plus character study-cum-genre thriller is set in motion, a familiar tale of illicit enterprise that's enlivened by taut, gritty filmmaking punctuated by flashes of poeticism, and which soon comes to double as both a loose allegory for Arab ascendancy in France and a micro-portrait of criminal (and general) power-structure mechanisms.

  • At a time where an entire sub-genre of popular cinema exists only to invent more repulsive and cruel forms of torture, not once during A Prophet does the horror on the screen feel any less real than that of the chaotic world it succeeds in depicting with moral precision and intellectual honesty. Few will quibble against the consensus since Cannes ’09 that A Prophet is an exceptionally well-crafted crime film, but whether it represents a substantial step up for its director is more debatable.

  • Like his character, Mr. Rahim’s performance sneaks up from behind. With his wispy mustache and a body that scarcely fills his clothes, Malik makes an unlikely center for such a thrilling film. The camera doesn’t love him, no matter how closely it hovers. But Malik was not meant for our love, and Mr. Rahim’s performance, while strong, is purposefully not flashy, as movie outlaws often are. Mr. Audiard seems to be after something else...

  • These deviations in style intensify the harsh realism. And somehow, because of Audiard's scrupulous detachment and Rahim's total honesty, El Djebena arouses shocked empathy. So do his foes — in the instances where one expects a vengeful payoff, there is only pathos and dread. The old templates no longer apply. In this film, it does profit a man to gain the whole world — by so doing, he finds his soul.

  • It’s imperfect, but it’s daring, bold, and from a director who isn’t scared of anything.

  • What happens when you toss an unformed Corsican Arab teenager into a French prison population violently divided between Corsicans and Arabs? By filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s own estimation, what happens is the “anti-Scarface,” a gangster epic of brutal, tragic and emphatically unromantic self-actualization. It’s also a parable of modern France, and maybe the first to touch this particular bundle of nerves with this much force since Albert Camus.

  • Often we praise genre films for genre-defying moments, or for sneaking in scenes of well-observed humanity, but A PROPHET is composed of these scenes. Sometimes the film's violence approaches cliché in style and quantity, but even the acts of violence have a narrative specificity and a clear cost. We feel it most strongly when we are alone with Malik and his conscience.

  • Seemingly effortless, [Rahim's performance] is a prodigious high-wire act, and it should have resulted in as many awards for Rahim as the film itself has already received. The focus of every scene, he leads us through the thickets of the plot as if nothing matters except how he manipulates everyone else to ensure his own survival.

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