Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Prophet [Un Prophete] (2009)

Jacques Audiard' Grand Prix winner follow-up to his own The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005) lives up to its predecessor's promise and the universal lavish praise bestowed upon it. A Prophet is not only a natural successor, but also a vastly improved film in every way.

Tahar Rahim is the 19-year-old new inmate, Malik. Once sensing his solitude, the Corsican contingent recruit him to carry out a murder in exchange for protection. However, once Malik completes the deed he finds himself a slave to the Corsicans while drawing disdain from the 'Muslim' inmates. It is crucial to note that what differs the Corsicans apart is their ethnicity, while every person in the Muslim faith is grouped into one category. Malik ('king' in Arabic) soon masters the Corsican language and Cesar ('king'), the Corsicans' leader, tasks him to carry out more sensitive business deals outside when Malik is out on day leave. Malik, however, also begins to run his own business on the side begins to threaten Cesar's own interests.

There are moments of pure hilarity as the blackest of comedy is played out before your eyes. Then, Audiard injects the surreal to counterbalance the very-real setting of the film. To make things even more interesting it feels like David Lynch came on the set and directed a few scenes for fun. This mish-mash, along with some ill-advised choice of popular music, somehow results in tight plot and an extremely satisfying experience.

Like Romain Duris in The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Rahim's performance is captivating from start to finish. His subtle evolution from a wide-eyed, lonely kid to a pseudo-criminal-mastermind takes 2 hours and 40 minutes - and every second of it is worth it. Yes, Avatar is the winner in every front when it comes to being the film of 2009, but A Prophet shows that 2009 was an exceptional year in film when you take out those stupid 3D-glasses. And what a fine way to say goodbye to the year with such a magnificent film. I just hope that nobody in Hollywood takes a sniff of this and turns it into tosh.

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