Sunday, August 8, 2010

Movie Review- Un Prophete

For any of you who watched the Oscars back in March, you may briefly recall a film in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category titled Un Prophete. Besides that quick recognition the film received at the Oscars, this film hasn't really gotten the acknowledgement it deserves here in the states. The DVD was released this past Tuesday and I got it in my Netflix mail box that very day. Here's my review.

Un Prophete is a French film by Jacques Audiard that was released earlier this year. The film opens with 19-year old Malick being tossed into a French prison for a unsaid crime. Malick is a harmless young man who's part Arab and part Corsican and illiterate. The prison is split by racial tensions between the Muslims and Corsicans. The Corsican mafia, led by Cesar Luciani, rules prison life and enforce rules by controlling the guards. An informant against the Corsican mafia named Reyeb arrives at the prison to testify in trial within the next few days. The Don of the Corsican mafia orders Luciani to have Reyeb killed before he can testify; however, Reyeb isolates himself from all non-muslims making it impossible to get to him. Luciani finds out Malick is a non-muslim Arab and tells Malick he must kill Reyeb and inreturn they will offer him protection. If Malick refuses or fails, he will be killed.

From the very beginning, the audience can see that Malick is an easy target in prison life, being much younger and seemingly innocent. Upon his arrival he immediately gets beaten. Being a mix of Arab and Corsican, he's constantly tossed between different groups but not accepted by any. Muslims see him as Corsican and Corcicans see him as Arab. Malick wants to be invisible to all groups throughout his sentence and spends his time studying Arab, French and Economics in the classroom. Being forced to kill Reyeb puts a lot of stress on our young protagonist and when the moment comes to kill him, it's not pretty. After Malick successfuly murders Reyeb, he is under the Corsicans protection and is given a number of missions to carry out for them, strengthening his character and gaining Luciani's confidence. Malick is smart and begins to rise up the prison ranks. He learns to read in write in French and Arab and picks up on Corsicans by listening. Pretty soon he beings to devise plans of his own gaining the trust of the Muslims and, bringing down Luciani's presence in the prison, and creating his own empire.

A great thing about this film are the small subtleties throughout which would send chills down my back. Now I usually don't get grossed out by violence in movies but several scenes in the film made me squeal. The plan for Reyeb's murder was for Malick to pretend to engage in oral sex, push out a razor blade concealed in his mouth out with his tongue and cut Reyeb's throat. While practicing, his mouth gets ruthlessly sliced up. When the time comes to do it, he gets too nervous and bites down too hard on the blade causing him to bleed. Malick is forced to take out the razor with this hand and violence ensues! What happens it pretty freakin' gross! Just watch it for yourself to see. Overridden by guilt of Reyeb's murder, Malick begins hallucinating the presence of Reyeb's ghost in his cell who servees as a spiritual guide of sorts. Reyeb's ghost probably freaked my out more than even Frank from Donnie Darko. Jacques Audiard really did an amazing job adding great touches on his film.

The film is heavily character driven, particularly by Malick. Malick in the film is portrayed by newcomer actor Tahar Rahim. For now on, any movie with him casted in I will watch!! PLEASE I need to see more from this beautiful, talented man! He does such an incredible job playing Malick. Malick's character strengthen and grows very well throughout the film and yet never loses himself to arrogance or pomposity. Several moments in the film you become overwhelmingly concerned with Malick's safety and mentality. Overall the film is superb in every way and beautifully crafted. I thought the ending was great. Definitely a must watch.

Recommended- Final Score 10/10

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