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The rise through the criminal ranks of a young orphan of North African origin, who has only known a prison life and who will become, with the help of the Corsican mafia and an influential Imam, the ultimate crime kingpin of all of France's immigrant suburbs.
For more about A Prophet and the A Prophet Blu-ray release, see A Prophet Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 27, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Reda Kateb
Director: Jacques Audiard
» See full cast & crew
A Prophet Blu-ray Review
Rise to power or fall from grace?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 27, 2010
The idea is to leave here a little smarter.
What is corruption? From where does it originate, fester, grow, and become something dangerous? Is corruption only physical, or does it influence and transform the mental, emotional, and psychological elements of a man's essence? Is it innate, perhaps a constant companion but forcibly kept under wraps through years of societal influence and a world that through laws and governance attempts to weed it out or, at the very least, force it into dormancy? Perhaps it is instead built up by some other external force. If so, through what or by whom is that force exerted? Does it spring only from a place where already exists a system that's corrupt? Can the innocent remain so while surrounded by corruption? Can one become corrupted in the name of survival and only when it's safe to abandon that survivalist mentality flip a switch and return to a state of normalcy and free of the influences of corruption? A Prophet, a 2009 French film directed by Jacques Audiard, is the story of a young Arab sentenced to six years in a French prison and his rise in prominence from a nobody inmate to a powerful criminal figure, his reputation and stature built on violence and the suffering of others. He enters the place a flawed but far from absolutely corrupted man but finds himself surrounded by negative influences that will determine his survival and, later, steer his fate. It's a story that sees its lead figure slowly transform into someone he could have never imagined, but the question remains: who is the real Malik El Djebena, the man who went to prison or the changed man who hopes to one day leave it?
Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) has been sentenced to six years in a tough French prison. Like most new inmates, Malik struggles to survive and find his place in the system. He's beaten for his shoes, takes work behind a sewing machine, and does what he must to stay out of too much trouble. Soon after his own arrival, another inmate, Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi), comes onto the scene, and he's been targeted for death by the prison's Corsican mafia, led by César Luciani (Niels Arestrup). When the Corsicans learn that Malik's been approached by Reyeb for sexual favors in return for drugs, César presents Malik with a proposition: murder Reyeb or die. Malik struggles with a decision he never thought he'd have to make, weighing his own life against that of another, let alone a man against whom he holds no real grudge and barely knows. Malik chooses self-preservation and does the deed. He finds protection with the Corsicans but is still shunned thanks to his ethnic heritage. Nevertheless, Malik seizes the opportunity to better himself; he learns to read and picks up on the Corsicans' dialect, but he also becomes something more: a puppet for César, a henchman who does the Corsican's dirty work, but through his trials he becomes more self-sufficient and understanding of the criminal underworld that works behind-the-scenes within and outside of the prison's walls. Though visions of Reyeb haunt him, Malik transforms from a meager inmate to a dangerous figurehead who seizes his opportunities to advance through the ranks and make a name for himself throughout France's criminal underground.
A Prophet is a grueling film. It's not only tough to watch because of its violent elements, but also because of its extremely involved psychological underpinnings that will leave viewers with much to contemplate, much more, in fact, than most other films have to offer. This is the sort of material that has "film school" written all over it; A Prophet is not only wonderfully crafted, but its themes -- not the least of which is Malik's psychological transformation through his years in prison -- are of a complexity that beg for extended critical examination. While A Prophet can be seen -- and rightfully so -- as a not-so-subtle commentary on the general ineffectiveness of the prison system as depicted in the film, its more fascinating elements stem from the personal journey of its lead character as he succumbs to corruption not for, at first, his own gain, but rather for the sake of his own life. What's so fascinating, though, is that it can rightfully be observed that Malik's first action down the path towards corruption -- the murder of a fellow inmate -- represents his own death, too, not in the physical realm, of course, but on his spiritual, emotional, and psychological planes of existence. Throughout the film, Malik is haunted by images of the first man he kills, a reminder, no doubt, of the turning point in his life that drained him of his innocence and corrupted his being in ways that he never could have imagined possible, that action saving his body at the expense of his soul. His journey throughout the film leads one to wonder if it was the system and his surroundings that constructed a Malik that's almost unidentifiable from the man who first walked into the prison, or if there was always something inside of him -- something that innately led him to follow his new path without too many moral obstacles in his way -- that simply allowed for his true but dormant self to rise from its slumber once removed from the influences of the outside world.
Its substantive thematic issues are no doubt the main attraction, but A Prophet is an exemplary film by every standard even outside its story. This is a film worthy of multiple viewings if only to gain a greater appreciation for all of its intricacies both on- and off-camera. A Prophet feasts on a grainy façade and a slightly desaturated color palette that emphasizes not only the harsh realities of prison life but the degradation of a man's very essence as he loses his innocence in a world that's meant to, on paper, anyway, protect, preserve, and reinforce it. Director Jacques Audiard and Cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine have crafted a masterpiece of cinematic sight that's wholly absorbing of not only the superficial visuals that populate the film but its many damning and disturbing thematic elements that altogether make A Prophet a gorgeous film on so many levels, despite its difficult subject matter. It's that contrast between absorbing story, difficult realities, and striking visuals that's been at the center of some of cinema's great pictures like The Godfather and Saving Private Ryan, and it's once again used to splendid effect here. Additionally, A Prophet is blessed with exemplary acting; Tahar Rahim's portrayal of Malik is one of the more seamless performances in memory. Rarely can an actor shed any hint that he's someone other than the man he's playing, but his turn as Malik is a singular achievement in his craft, an effort that's not just convincing, but one that never even has the audience believing that Malik El Djebena is indeed a fictional character. Niels Arestrup is also superb as César Luciani, and the film's most unsung but equally magnificent performance comes courtesy of Hichem Yacoubi, who plays Reyeb, the slain inmate and ghost of Malik's past.
A Prophet Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony delivers A Prophet to Blu-ray with a startling 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. This Blu-ray springs to life with a fantastic film-like texture that's accentuated by the picture's thick layer of grain, but it also delivers on every other attribute that contributes to a pristine and cinematic home theater presentation. Detail is positively striking, even through what is oftentimes a downtrodden and cold blue- and gray-heavy color palette within the prison's walls. Still, vibrant hues sparkle during several extended outdoor scenes, every one of them lush and true with no hint of over-saturation or the dullness that accompanies the interior segments. Back to the fine detail; there aren't too many transfers that can stand toe-to-toe with A Prophet. Facial nuances -- stubble, pores, and wrinkles -- are striking, while clothes and brick and concrete walls feature impeccable texturing. Scribblings on walls and the caked-on-dirt that are ever-present companions within the prison are showcases for the amazing clarity that's visible throughout the film. Additionally, black levels are marvelous. A Prophet features exceptional shadow detail; never do the transfer's blacks threaten to overpower the image, nor do they appear unnaturally bright. The print exhibits not a single blemish, and it's absent any unwelcome elements such as banding and aliasing. A few shots do go slightly soft, but such seem inherent to the original film elements and not a fault of Sony's exemplary transfer.
A Prophet Blu-ray, Audio Quality
A Prophet debuts on Blu-ray with a strong DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track's greatest asset is its handling of prison atmospherics; from the opening moments forward, listeners will feel surrounded by slamming and squeaky doors and inmate chatter coming from all around the soundstage. It's often loud, but not overbearing, and the track does a wonderful job in building an immersive atmosphere that's a strong asset to the film's drama. Exterior environments come to life, too, with driving rain, passing traffic, and other niceties that seamlessly integrate with the picture and flow into the listening area, reinforcing those scenes away from the prison. A few gunshots ring out with sufficient force, but the track's low end is best identified through several songs that play over the film. Music is smooth as it flows from the front channels with a transparent sense of space. For all its nice little touches, though, A Prophet is primarily a dialogue-driven picture, and while a few voices seem a bit bass-y, the spoken word never wants for clarity as it remains firmly entrenched in the center speaker. This one won't push sound systems to their limits, but A Prophet's lossless soundtrack impresses nevertheless.
A Prophet Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A Prophet arrives on Blu-ray with a few extras. First is an audio commentary track with Director Jacques Audiard, Actor Tahar Rahim, and Co-Writer Thomas Bidegain. The trio, speaking in French (accompanied by English subtitles), delivers a strong commentary that covers not only some nuts-and-bolts technical issues but the film's score, the story's inner-workings, the actors' performances, and much more. Fans of the film will find a nice array of topics both superficially observational and more thematically relevant, both of which make this one a worthwhile listen (or read, as the case may be). Also included is BD-Live functionality; four deleted scenes (480p, 10:34); rehearsal footage (480p, 8:50); screen tests (480p, 5:00); the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:07); and additional 1080p trailers for Micmacs, The Secret in Their Eyes, Get Low, The White Ribbon, Please Give, Mother and Child, The Last Station, and Cemetery Junction.
A Prophet Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Speaking of Malik's education and his effort to better himself by learning to read while in prison, an inmate at one point tells him, "the idea is to leave here a little smarter." Indeed, Malik's time in prison sees him grow beyond the man he was when he entered, not by gaining his literacy but by finding a part of himself he didn't know existed; whether he's a product of the system or the man he was always destined to be isn't explicitly answered, but A Prophet explores one man's journey through six years of an impossibly difficult existence in a world where survival of the body sometimes means the sacrifice of the soul. A Prophet is a case study in motion picture perfection, a film that's not only riveting and entertaining but also dramatically profound and crafted at a level rarely achieved in cinema. This is a must-see picture for admirers of fine cinema and is easily one of the absolute best movies of 2009. Sony's Blu-ray release of A Prophet is itself an achievement, the disc home to a pristine 1080p transfer, a strong lossless soundtrack, and a small collection of extras. Very highly recommended.
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A Prophet Blu-ray, News and Updates
• A Remake of Jacques Audiard's A Prophet Coming Up - June 6, 2013
Sony Pictures has revealed that it plans to produce an English-language remake of French director Jacques Audiard's crime drama A Prophet (2009). The remake will be produced by Neal Moritz and Toby Jaffe, but further details are unknown at the moment.
• A Prophet Announced on Blu-ray - May 31, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced A Prophet for release on Blu-ray on August 3. This taut prison drama, directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated to the Oscars in the ...
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