A Prophet rises

Giving praise to Cannes' favourite prison thriller, The Prophet.

Originally touted as a contender for an Academy Award, Jacques Audriard’s prison thriller deservedly won a Grand Prix at Cannes. It’s a taut, nakedly violent two-and-a-half hours following loner Malik el-Djebena (Tahar Rahim), an illiterate 19-year-old French Arab, incarcerated for assaulting a cop. Malik quickly gains the attention of the prison ringleader, a barrel-chested Corsican named Cesar, who orders him to kill a gay, drug-dealing prisoner. The scene is brutal, bloody, shaky and human. Although there’s more colour and warmth than Steve McQueen’s gripping prison film Hunger, Audriard is also more interested in drawing realistic social studies than a violent facade of prison life: the scariest part of A Prophet is watching quiet Malik absorb Cesar’s lessons.

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