Un prophète (2009)
Un prophète is stern and gritty social realism from director Jacques Audiard, who follows French-Arab Malik's quiet-mannered ascent from nobody to overlord in a contemporary French prison. The character portrait is remarkably strong, because Malik's development is one of unflappable endurance and reserved shrewdness. It's interesting, if not completely engaging. Audiard never emphasizes the events he portrays, he just lets them come and pass, almost hurries on to the next one. This gives the film realism, but also makes for a somewhat monotonous narrative experience. There are no pace-shifts, few intensifiers (except for a breathtaking scene involving a mouth-hidden razorblade), and much of the effect is left to Tahar Rahim's impressive acting in the lead. Additionally, Audiard's feeble attempts to link the thematics of the title to the story and the protagonist is unconvincing. If this was all there was too Malik's 'prophetic' powers, I'd rather not bother. The film's story should have been trusted to do the work, especially since it is rather apparent that Audiard has little to communicate in terms of stance and message.