A Prophet (Blu-ray)
Nineteen year old Malik el Djebena (a young and very green Arab kid) is sentenced to six years in a French prison. He’s quickly cultured in the way of things as soon after his arrival he’s forced to kill another inmate in exchange for protection from a Corsican gang. Malik quickly gets the hang of things and begins a rise to power unlike anything he’d ever dreamed of.
I’ll be honest in that I loathe films with subtitles. Yes, on the one hand, after awhile you forget they’re there (if the movie’s good of course) but I find trying to read the words and watch the screen tedious. It can start to feel like work rather than a relaxing watch. That said, this was thankfully an engrossing watch and the subtitles were quickly forgotten. I enjoyed A PROPHET but I can’t help but wonder why this film needed to be made. Films like this take themselves seriously and usually try to prove a point but we’ve seen this scenario countless times before (of sorts), lately even, with stuff like PRISON BREAK, FELON (which I really liked) and the upcoming STONE with Ed Norton coming out later this year. So again, regardless of its pros and cons, I still have to ask why?
On a positive note I dug Malik’s character. He’s the poster boy for underdog and despite him being guilty of a crime and sent to prison, you can’t help but like the kid. They make it painfully obvious that Malik doesn’t want to make his first kill and what I loved about it was the whole DEXTER angle they played with in the aftermath. Talking to his victim (who isn’t really there but we see him) as a means of coping with the impending madness of it all is a sobering sight in my opinion and I especially dug the smoking scene where the dead dude’s exhaling through the razorblade gash on his neck which freaks Malik out a little.
I also dug Malik’s deer vision though I have to say I was perplexed by where it was headed at first. I’m also rather confused about this particular prison system. These inmates seem to eat better than most people, have access to all the drugs they can handle, TVs and even DVD players. Malik even gets to bang a chick in his cell. Add to this that Malik’s rise to power (from a scrub nothing) seemed pretty easy if you’re willing to take a life…which he had all the help in the world with. The real irony is that Malik didn’t want to do it and even tried to rat them out a couple times and they still didn’t kill him for it. I’ve seen some pretty hardcore prison movies and I have to say this was not one of them.
A PROPHET was a cool watch for someone like me who digs prison flicks but when I think of prison I keep wondering when the Toss Salad Man’s going to start terrorizing the new guy or shanking him in the face. This prison didn’t feel all that tense and almost seemed like it could make Gods and gangsters out of anyone there, on the inside and on the outside. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending but see the sense in it I suppose. This flick isn’t for everyone and is far from perfect but it’s worth checking out if you think the way I do and/or don’t mind subtitled films. The pace is spotty and the cast is mostly unknowns (though they all performed well) but if you let yourself get into it you probably won’t be disappointed.
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen in 1080p HD with AVC codec. Not much to see in the visual department other than a cold, dull prison most of the time.
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD in French and German with those, English and Turkish subtitle options. If you speak French or German you’ll enjoy this film much more.
Commentary (2:35:22): Director Jaques Audiard, co-writer Thomas Bidegain and actor Tahar Rahim (Malik) lead us through it and as with my audio input, if you speak French this will be a bit easier to enjoy but if you don’t you’ll have fun with a second set of subtitles. Yay.
Deleted Scenes (10:34): There really isn’t much here and for the most part it’s more of the same and seems easy and logical to cut. To be honest, I feel they could have easily shaved a cool ten to fifteen more minutes off the runtime.
Rehearsal Footage (8:50): Here we get some improve with some of the film’s key scenes from the audition reel. I think Thar Rahim (Malik) was a solid choice talent-wise. There’s also five more minutes of individual screen test footage.
Previews: There’s a theatrical trailer for the feature as well as eight other trailers for flicks you probably never heard of.