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Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) is sentenced to six years in prison and finds himself alone in a facility that is run on corruption and inside deals. When Malik is approached  by the leader of the Corsican mafia group, led by Luciani (Niels Arestrup), and given the offer of protection for the rest of his term in return for killing another prisoner, he reluctantly accepts. This event changes Malik forever and he begins down a path that leads him to creating his own criminal network inside and outside of the walls of his prison cell and treading the dangerous line between being loyal to the Corsicans and his own people.

 Prophet, A
On the surface A Prophet isn’t dissimilar to a whole host of other prison dramas. We see the evolution of our character within the stark walls of his imprisoned life, we see the danger around every corner, and we get to see a whole host of corruption all around him. How this movie succeeds however is that it comes with a gritty realism and a steady pace making for a fairly believable depiction of Malik’s entire six years inside.

On top of that the movie offers a slight hint of spirituality to Malik's journey as well. Having him seemingly haunted by the memory of the killing he had to make to survive and having his victim literally live alongside him in his cell really doesn’t fit into the rest of the movie, but somehow Malik’s acceptance of him being around shows how far the character’s come since that soul destroying decision and totally works.

 Prophet, A
Despite rave reviews, many an award nomination and wins, I have to say that in the end A Prophet didn’t really grab me entirely. I was on board pretty early on as Tahar Rahim’s performance of Malik really drew me in and the orchestration of the brutal murder of a his prison neighbour (which included hiding a razor blade in his mouth - *wince*) really felt like his only option within these prison walls, but as the movie wore on everything began to feel a little typical.

Everything went as predicted, slipping into drug use and trafficking and getting deeper and deeper into the criminal stronghold the prison had. Never was there a sense that Malik wanted more or even to get out, and for me I didn’t really feel the character grow within the hefty two and half hour runtime. He got more confident, he took more advantages of his situation but upon his release at the end his six year term I wasn’t quite sure what I was meant to feel for this character anymore or indeed what would happen to him next. This just left me a little distanced from a character I was feeling a connection to earlier on and it left me a little underwhelmed.

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What’s apparent from the get go is that A Prophet has a pretty grainy looking transfer and a very stark grey colour palette (hey, it’s prison, what did you expect?), but stick with it and this has a pretty subtle change as the movie goes on and by the end it was pretty difficult to trace where all that heavy grain had actually gone.

Outside of that, the image is relatively impressive. The details and sharpness don’t scream at you but on closer inspection the HD-ness is all there. Clothes and skin textures are all doing grand jobs, colours (the little amount there is anyway) glows out of the bleak surroundings and the scene where Malik has a day release and winds up at a beach is a surprisingly good looking scene without losing the style of the rest of the movie.

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Once again A Prophet has something subtle going on. This DTS-HD Master Audio track initially doesn’t seem to be doing much outside of character dialogue, but there is a whole lot more going on to create an ambience within that prison. The echoes from the other cells and hallways all create a realistic feeling that Malik’s cell is one of many and the odd bit of shouting or door slamming from other areas really make the prison feel alive.

The track also has some show off moments. Firstly the handful of song choices on the soundtrack really have a presence as does the score in certain areas. The hip-hop track used for one of the early montages really comes with a strong level of bass and while we’re on bass, the mix for the car shoot out later in the film was very impressive, especially when director Jacques Audiard got a little more experimental with its presentation.

A Prophet is a dialogue driven drama and generally the audio track does a fine job at presenting it as such but those odd moments mentioned above, as well as the scene with one of the most shocking deer hits I’ve seen in a while make it a cut above what’s expected and made the moments all the more impressive.

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‘Derriere Les Barreux’ from Antonin Peret Jacko (01:12:00 SD) is the making of and complimenting it nicely is ‘A Prophet Revealed’ (14:34 SD) which is slightly more of the same but a more focused interview featuring just the director, Jacques Audiard.

There’s just over ten minutes of deleted scenes with optional director commentary and a screen test for Tahar Ramin (04:59 SD) as well as rehearsal footage (08:55 SD) .

Lastly there’s ‘Un Prophet a Chatenay’ from Jean-Michael Correia (23:36 SD) which shows us around the area the movie was filmed and talks to a few of the residents who played parts in the film and rounding up, the trailer (01:25 SD).

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A Prophet is another well told tale of a young man’s life changing experiences in prison (for both better and worse). I personally wouldn’t consider this one of the best examples of the genre, but the movie certainly had something special about it even if I didn’t respond to all of it.

The Blu-ray is strong in both audio and video departments (despite its general bleakness) and has a good set of extras as well, so overall, Optimum has done this much applauded film a good service.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.