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A Prophet (2009)

“If you want a favour, learn how to ask”

A Prophet always leaves me with slight anger at its treatment in the 2010 Oscars. It was up for the foreign language film statue. It was, by some distance, the best film of its category. In fact, some influential people who know what they are talking about said it should revolutionise the Oscars completely. The Film was to open the doors for some, if not all, foreign language films to enter in every category. It lost out, however, to the Argentinian film ‘The Secret in their Eyes’, which is a good film in its own right but not in the same league as Un Prophete. It was voted in a very popular poll as the best prison thriller of all time, which is some statement, a true statement, but bold nevertheless. Especially when up against, one of my favourites. ‘Cool Hand Luke’ and the people’s choice, ‘Shawshank Redemption’ to name but a few. This really is a great film.

In my life I have seen my fair share of films and like to think (remember I said like to think) I am experienced in most genres. This was and still is my favourite film, yes my favourite film of all time, without a Jawa in sight. (I think I know what I am watching tonight). I shall endeavour to explain why.

The writer/director Jacques Audiard made sure he used relative unknowns for this film, a common trait these days it seems. He was very conscious of the authenticity of his gritty prison thriller. Mr Audiard used former convicts as advisors and extras to ensure the realism; In fact he decided to make the film because of the harsh environment he witnessed when screening a previous project in a maximum security prison. Tahar Rahim is the lead and what a lead he is. Meeting the director by chance he hugely impressed in his first audition, the rest is truly a piece of casting genius. The performances and characters are so good, especially Tahar who commands the most immense empathy during the film. It reminded me of the feeling I had for Tim Robbins character in ‘Jacobs Ladder’ and Andrew Garfield’s character in ‘Boy – A’, although both very, very different films.

A rise to power that puts Scarface to shame except with a lot more realism. Our hero really does descend into areas he never thought he would go near. The scene in the car towards the end is just fucking amazing. How he learns to manipulate through violence, always a few steps ahead of everyone. The last few moments where Rahim exits the prison where he learnt so much just makes you wish you could see where the man goes from here. In conclusion, Il profeta, the much loved Italian title, is arguably the best film I have ever seen.

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