Pin It
Favorite

Lessons Not Learned 

In a corrupt prison, a French-Arab teen tries going along to get along. The results aren’t pretty.

click to enlarge art15130.jpg

A Prophet is sort of like The Godfather, if The Godfather took place in a French prison. Sort of.

When Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) enters prison, we know nothing of his past: no flashbacks, no stories, just a brief interview with his government-provided lawyer. It’s revealed that 19-year-old Malik is illiterate, has no family, no friends, no religion, no work skills, and is being incarcerated for some unidentified battery-related crime.

In a prison dominated by two forces, a branch of the Corsican mafia and a large Muslim population, Malik is the ultimate outsider — a Frenchman of Arab descent who isn’t Muslim.

A loner, Malik seems to be sleepwalking his way through his sentence when a new prisoner arrives, a man named Reyeb, whom the Corsicans want dead.

In Malik, they find the perfect fall guy. So in true Godfather fashion, they make Malik an offer he can’t refuse: Kill Reyeb, or we kill you.

The violence that ensues hits with unexpected impact — largely for how much it veers away from your typical slick, stylized Hollywood murder scene.

Guilt, opportunism and moral degradation become the order of the day — on the part of the Corsican kingpin, his henchmen, and the unsuspecting prisoners whom they compel into their service.

It’s a classic underdog story, and in other hands, Malik might have been turned into the kind of bad guy whom you love to hate.

But what makes A Prophet unique and riveting is that Malik is one underdog you have trouble rooting for. Instead of offering up a backstory by way of explanation and to garner the audience’s sympathy, A Prophet focuses on Malik’s evolving identity, offering a fresh and sobering perspective.

Instead of showing us the heart buried inside in a bad guy, A Prophet shows us why the bad guy is bad. Malik’s transformation may owe a lot to his environment, but it’s also the result of his conscious decision-making. A Prophet presents a cautionary tale that’s hard to swallow. But it’s hard not to watch.

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • Seashell Secrets
  • Seashell Secrets

    Song of the Sea is a beautiful story of siblings struggling to cope and understand each other
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • Con Err
  • Con Err

    Focus mistakenly emphasizes romance over sleight of hand
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • The Contenders
  • The Contenders

    A look at this year's Oscar field
    • Feb 18, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Northwest Bach Festival

Northwest Bach Festival @ Spokane

Through March 8

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Carey Jackson

  • Arts Happenings in September
  • Arts Happenings in September

    Gods of war and Eva Peron meet anti-messianic punks to get Bavarian with Buddy Holly.
    • Sep 14, 2010
  • Arts Happenings in October
  • Arts Happenings in October

    Sharks and Jets knife-fight over contemporary ceramics and Bugs Bunny.
    • Sep 14, 2010
  • Arts Happenings in November
  • Arts Happenings in November

    The wolves of North Idaho meet tiny Texan techno nerds and a woman who found 19 types of gazelle.
    • Sep 14, 2010
  • More »

Most Commented On

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Music


Film


Folk


Review


Rock


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation