CinemaClown’s review published on Letterboxd:
Winner of Grand Prix at 2009 Cannes Film Festival, A Prophet is a hard-hitting prison drama that borrows elements from various classics of its genre, is absolutely unflinching in both its content & narration, introduces the vastly talented Tahar Rahim in his breakthrough role, and is aggressive enough to rank amongst the most potent gangster flicks out there.
The story of A Prophet (also known as Un prophète) follows Malik El Djebena; a 19-year old petty criminal who's sentenced to six years in prison but soon finds himself caught between the two main factions, the Corsicans & the Muslims, until forced to side with the former. The plot covers his rise in the inmate hierarchy as he slowly gains the respect of both sides despite his Algerian origin.
Co-written & directed by Jacques Audiard, A Prophet is brutally engaging from its opening moments, and is arguably the finest work of his directional career so far for it presents the acclaimed filmmaker in firm control of his craft and even though not all aspects work out in the film's favour, its remarkable attention to detail & expert handling of characters is one element that cannot be downplayed.
The technical aspects are nicely executed for the sets resonate the grim atmosphere of the prison, is made all the more gruesome by its raw, gritty cinematography which is effectively handled but the plot does end up running longer than it needs to be and could've benefited from a few trims but it's the explosive performances from Tahar Rahim & Niels Arestrup that makes it an experience worth your time & money.
On an overall scale, A Prophet is an original, intense & thrilling piece of powerful filmmaking that has all the ingredients of a great feature film, benefits immensely from Rahim's strong input, and would've been amongst the finest examples of its genre if it wasn't lacking in its pacing & a tighter narrative. A rewarding experience despite its shortcomings, this fabulous journey of a vulnerable outsider from a nobody to a fearsome crime lord comes thoroughly recommended.