Malik (Tahar Rahim) arrives in prison with virtually no history and little personality. Over his six-year sentence, he grows into a man under the thumb of Corsican mobster César (the great Niels Arestrup), who openly regards Malik as a “stupid Arab,” even while entrusting him with increasingly important tasks. The latest film by director Jacques Audiard ( The Beat That My Heart
Skipped) is an examination of the influx of Muslims into France and an indictment of the notion of prison as rehabilitation as well as a gangster flick and comingof-age fable. Rated R. 155 minutes. In French, Arabic, and Corsican with subtitles. Regal DeVargas, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker)
A Prophet, drama, rated R, in French, Arabic, and Corsican with subtitles, Regal DeVargas, 3 chiles We first meet Malik (Tahar Rahim) when he arrives in prison. He is a young man of Middle Eastern descent with nondescript features, possessing almost no material objects, who was raised in boarding homes and jailed as a result of a crime that gets no more than one line of dialogue. His presence in prison is a shrug of inevitability. Once inside, Malik finds himself outside of the various ethnic and social groups there, including those of his fellow Arabs, and possessing none of the social skills necessary to ingratiate himself or the street smarts required to defend himself. This is a man whose prison sentence, whose entire life, is spent in solitary confinement.
A Prophet is a coming-of-age film that stars a full-grown man who learns to grow up. Malik is a blank slate on which the portrait of an adult slowly takes shape — but what kind of adult? Given that the prison yard is his classroom, we can make some guesses, and we’d be both right and wrong. Malik may be inexperienced, but he isn’t a dummy. His sentence is only six years, and we watch him grow from an introverted prisoner to a self-assured free man over that time.
His cross to bear: Tahar Rahim