Nick Schager Reviews A Prophet

Given his fixation on the tensions between interior and exterior spaces, as well as on domineering father-son dynamics and masculine identity development, it’s only natural that Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet is situated primarily within a roughneck French prison. Another of the director’s scintillating crime sagas, this jail-set story centers on Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim), a French Muslim who enters his new home to serve six years for scuffling with cops and promptly discovers that his plans to lay low and quietly ride out his sentence are hopeless. Upon his arrival, Malik is approached by Corsican inmates—led by boss César Luciani (Niels Arestrup)—who’ve determined that his ethnicity and lack of inside allegiances make him the perfect candidate to carry out the assassination of a Muslim witness temporarily staying at the facility. Thus 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.

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