A Prophet - Blu-ray Review

'Audiard never delivers on the film's early promise, instead expecting us to endure and enjoy a film which is less exiting crime thriller and more so-so character study'

Not necessarily bursting on to the screen, rather, seeping slowly, the opening thirty-minutes of A Prophet is searing cinema, expertly crafted by director Jacques Audiard. Leading up to an event that will come to define young prisoner Malik (Tahar Rahim), it's a tense and slow-building opening which promises to turn into a compelling prison drama. What a shame then, that despite giving himself a further two hours, Audiard never delivers on the film's early promise, instead expecting us to endure and enjoy a film which is less exiting crime thriller and more so-so character study.

Which hints slightly at the fact that A Prophet might be a miss-marketed film, positioned as a crime drama but instead a quiet, character driven piece about a young man finding (or losing) his way in life. Only it's not. It is, most certainly a crime drama with a Godfather like figure (Niels Arestrup) slapping our young 'hero' around and a selection of other thugs and prison guards adding meat to the central intrigue, loosely structured around questions of race and identity. The problem is that Audiard doesn't seem to know what to do to make all these ingredients exciting. First half hour aside, there's a distinct lack of tension throughout, despite ample opportunity and several moments of conflict. In fact, there's really a distinct lack of anything meaningful and the excellent Rahim aside, it's difficult to remain interested and invested in the on-screen action.

Rahim though, does a good job of making Malik just interesting enough to guarantee your investment survives reasonably in tact throughout. With youngish good-looks and an innocent naivety, Malik is sympathetic enough to identify with but increasingly smart and brutal in a way which marks him more as a likable anti-hero. Arestrup too provides good support although his mob boss, C├ęsar Luciani, is straight from the pages of any gangster thriller you've ever read or watched. Other performances waver more, especially Adel Bencherif's Ryad who, whilst easy to feel sorry for, is never developed enough or given enough range to really care about.

Increasingly, the narrative-heavy drama becomes difficult to take in a film where our only real interest is in one character and, apart from a moment's departure into some over-the-top action, there's little break from the talking heads structure of conversation on top of conversation. An interesting take on the crime thriller as character study but falters on the levels required to elevate it any further.

Look further...

'Audiard has created a long, involved, relentlessly brutal but gripping and thrilling picture; it has the rangy, ­anecdotal feel of something drawn from real life, but its realism somehow ­accommodates an eerie supernatural shimmer' The Guardian (Peter Bradshaw), 5/5


  1. It's a tough watch!Definitely need to be in the right mood for this one. I thought it was almost very good, but it was too long.

  2. Yes definitely agree it's a tough watch and if anything I've soured on this even more than when I first saw it. Just really did not get into it at all.