Couch Critic: A Prophet

March 2, 2011 Film Reviews

3 out of 5 stars

In Brief

A great lead performance in a calculated prison movie, A Prophet lacks heart and connection.

In Long

Tahar Rahim is great in this breakout role as Malik El Djebena, a young man sentenced to six years in prison. It’s his film through and through. While it’s a good one and virtually unanimously critically praised, its primary deficiency is that Malik is very hard to identify with.

Un Prophète (A Prophet) is a French prison movie with gangster motifs. It succeeds in being a diversionary and interesting look into a nineteen year-old’s rise to power in a racially divided jail. Yet the protagonist’s actions are at best forgivable for their amoral survival necessity, but at their worst just plain immoral. It’s bloody and dark with dream sequences that attempt to illuminate the soul of our hero, but mostly come across as fanciful and confusing.

As a movie about a kid who learns to be cunning in a volatile situation it’s quite good. Unfortunately, it lacks an identifiable heart or soul. Even the characters we are supposed to like are as cold as the cell cots they sleep on. With a critic consensus of 97% over at it’s definitely worth a look, but don’t be alarmed to feel very little engagement in its languid 150 minutes.

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