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Movie Review: The Prophet (“Un Prophète”)

Alternate Title: Survivor

Story: Young (19) Malik enters a French prison an undefined slate. You could say he was feral and would not be far from the truth. Raised by the State, with no family, he has learned how to survive in the world by ducking his head. He cannot read and has no notable skills but can speak French and Arabic. Prison changes all of this. Director Jacques Audiard skillfully takes his time depicting the transformation of Malik. The film was written by Thomas Bidegain and Mr. Audiard and was based on an idea by Abdel Raouf Dafri and an original script by Mr. Dafri and Nicolas Peufaillit. The film is in French, Arabic and Corsu, with English subtitles.

Within days of entering prison, Malik is presented with an offer he cannot refuse. Either he kill one of the inmates or he will be killed. We watch as this innocent becomes wise to the ways of prison. He learns to read, he learns to murder, to connive, to survive. You wind up rooting for this young man because, like most other prison films, there are all levels of 'bad.'

Director Audiard shows the boredom of prison along with the sudden bursts of violence. The cliques, the power plays, the corruption, the graft and the payoffs are all fascinating stuff in the history of cinema.

This 'coming of age' prison film is well worth your time. I only wish it had been a little shorter. At 2 and a half hours I, at times, felt as if I were in prison.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d2kHU58mXw

Acting: Tahar Rahim as Malik El Djebena was nothing short of sensational. Bravo. Niels Arestrup as kingpin César Luciani was Godfather worthy, for sure. The entire supporting cast was terrific including, Adel Bencherif (Ryad), Reda Kateb (Jordi le Gitan), Hichem Yacoubi (Reyeb), Jean-Philippe Ricci (Vettorri) and Slimane Dazi (Lattrache).

Trivia: Tahar Rahim attended the University Paul Valery of Montpellier where he studied drama. He is of Algerian descent and speaks fluent English.

Predilection: I like to see all of the Oscar nominated films if possible.

Critters: Deer that do not fare well on the road.

Food: Aforementioned deer, baguettes and prison food.

Sex Spectrum: Prostitutes can be brought into the prison for visits.

Blatant Product Placement: Nothing

Opening Titles: A sequence showing young Malik entering prison for his six year term.

Theater Audience: Fairly crowded for opening day. The crowd was overwhelmingly male. By the way - yesterdsy was a snow day in NYC which accounts for the movie crowd.

Weather: The seasons come and go in prison.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: There are several squirmy parts (prison is rough) and the general sense of tension permeates the film.

Drift Factor: I looked at my watch often during the second hour.

Predictability Level: I was hopeful as to the ending as was correct.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: It is France's entry to the Oscar race this year (2009). It also won the Grand Prize at Cannes.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine.

Length: Overly long at 2 hours and 29 minutes.