A Prophet

Year: 2009
Production Co: Why Not Productions
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writer: Jacques Audiard/Thomas Bidegain

Like many French movies, this film takes its time in what it wants to say, exploring plenty of whimsical and seemingly unrelated asides in the process.

Feted for Best Picture at the Oscars (no doubt backed by a lot of black turtle neck wearers who think a movie must be good if you can't understand half of it), it starts simply enough. Young French Arab Malik goes to prison and wants nothing more than to keep his head down.

But he can't help but get caught up in the organised crime power plays inside, and it's not long before a fearsome mob boss and his henchmen descend to order Malik to kill an Arab they take exception to or they'll kill him.

It's the first step on an increasingly tense and dangerous journey as he moves up the pecking order of the crime cabals, often run with the complicity of the guards.

Reading about the film makes it sounds like a modern day French Goodfellas, but it's much harder to penetrate. Distinctly European, several flourishes will leave you bemused like the ghost of the man Malik kills in the beginning who comes to sit with him in his reflective moments.

A lot of film fans will find it takes too long to make its languorous points, and the brutality actually prompted walkouts in the first 15 minutes when I saw it. But if you're a fan of the Gallic aesthetic you'll love it.

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