Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) is a nineteen year old sentenced to six years in prison for assaulting a cop. Un Prophete has been compared to “The Godfather” so many times that it’s hard not to imagine the title character as a young Robert De Niro, and Rahim does seem to be channeling the actor at times. As the story unfolds we learn that he’s an orphan who practically grew up in the system, a forgotten soul with nothing but the will to survive. Once in prison he’s almost immediately singled out by a Corsican crime boss (Niels Arestrup as Cesar Luciani) to carry out a hit on an Arab inmate set to testify against the syndicate. It’s kill or be killed, and in El Djebena’s eyes we see fear and the tired acceptance of his fate as he practices the method of the assassination.
Hardened by the experience, over the next two and a half hours we see El Djebena’s rise from Corsican lackey to crime lord. This is not a beautiful film. It seems as though director Jacques Audiard is as intent on showing us the gritty reality of prison life as his characters are in surviving it, and with the exception of a handful of scenes most of the movie takes place inside the walls of the prison.
The years pass. As El Djebena’s confidence grows, Luciani’s vigor and influence wanes. He’s an old man who’ll probably die in prison, and it isn’t until the final minutes of the film that Luciani realizes that not only has the world passed him by, the student has now become the master.
Winner of most of the major Cesar awards, including best film, best director, best actor and best supporting actor, Un Prophete has an epic feel and a reasonable pace for such a long film. Comparisons with “The Godfather” are a bit of a stretch though; I felt like Arestrup’s Luciani was the only three dimensional character in the movie.
* Actors: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup
* Directors: Jacques Audiard
* Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
* Language: French
* Subtitles: English, French, German
* Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
* Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
* Number of discs: 1
* Rated: R (Restricted)
* Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
* DVD Release Date: August 3, 2010
* Run Time: 156 minutes
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