Here's something that doesn't come along everyday: a French prison drama.

'A Prophet,' directed by Jacques Audiard (2005's 'The Beat That My Heart Skipped') follows the criminal ascendancy of Tahar Rahim (Malik El Djebena), a French Arab who's green upon entering prison but soon learns to expertly navigate the native turf wars between the Corsican Mafia and Muslim gangs.

'A Prophet' was an award-winning hit at Cannes and it generated lots of rave reviews overseas. Now it comes to our shores. The work scores high marks for its gritty realism and edgy style and it's also up for an Oscar for best foreign-language film.

In French with English subtitles.

Here's what the critics are saying: Here's something that doesn't come along everyday: a French prison drama.

'A Prophet,' directed by Jacques Audiard (2005's 'The Beat That My Heart Skipped') follows the criminal ascendancy of Tahar Rahim (Malik El Djebena), a French Arab who's green upon entering prison but soon learns to expertly navigate the native turf wars between the Corsican Mafia and Muslim gangs.

'A Prophet' was an award-winning hit at Cannes and it generated lots of rave reviews overseas. Now it comes to our shores. The work scores high marks for its gritty realism and edgy style and it's also up for an Oscar for best foreign-language film.

In French with English subtitles.

Here's what the critics are saying:

The Hollywood Reporter: "But what finally cuts much deeper than the surface realism (a quality not exactly lacking in recent prison films like 'Hunger') is Audiard's minute deconstruction of the various ways power is manifested in prison and, by extension, in human life at its most basic. The Corsicans (an ethnic group rarely represented in the cinema) detest and fear the "bearded ones," the Muslims, as they brutally struggle to maintain control, and the director explores this basic tribal confrontation like a seasoned anthropologist."

The Globe and Mail: "Stretched over years, the film is sometimes bewildering in outlining the complex alliances and rivalries between the gangs and their bosses, but Audiard's sensationally directed set pieces and the quietly compelling performance by Rahim hold interest throughout."

Village Voice: "Does director Jacques Audiard deserve his new status as a made man? Set mostly in prison and named for a wiseguy in the making, 'A Prophet' affects an almost spiritual transcendence, no matter what nasty service Audiard's self-made hero has to perform in and out of the clink. As per modern gangster-flick formula, the appeal of upward mobility -- the thug's, if not the filmmaker's -- trumps any and all ethical considerations, particularly in this economy."

'A Prophet' trailer


Associated Press: "French director Audiard has crafted an epic, riveting drama of a young man with a destiny, a Darwinian survivor of the purest sort, an infinitely adaptable operator and opportunist."

Entertainment Weekly: "There's also no romanticizing on the part of the director, who proceeds with calm, unshowy attentiveness (even in the midst of scenes of violence), creating a stunning portrait of an innately smart survivor for whom prison turns out to be a twisted opportunity for self-definition."

The New Yorker: "On a short furlough, Malik goes through airport security and, without thinking, opens wide and sticks out his tongue, as he would during a regular inspection. It's a moment of greatness, like Chaplin walking away from an assembly line in 'Modern Times,' still tightening nuts with an invisible wrench, and it suggests -- more plausibly and provokingly than the cell-life of 'Shutter Island,' though with a fraction of the dazzle -- that you never really get out of jail. You just take your cage and leave."
CATEGORIES Reviews