Malik has been sentenced to six year’s imprisonment. His lawyer let him know that as an adult he will be transferred to the central (a prison reserved for inmates serving long sentences). He is manhandled upon his arrival by the Corsican group which gets its paws on him during the first walk. The boss Cesare Luciani tells him what his mission is: to make friends with a fellow prisoner, cut his throat in his cell and make it look like a suicide. Malik, realizing that he has no choice, beats someone up in the attempt to be sent to the isolation ward. Unluckily he gets caught by the prison guards who are bribed by the Corsicans. Malik then carries out the deal with a razor blade hidden in the jaw.
Without anyone to pay him a visit, Malik will rapidly finds himself at home in the prison. He will benefit, as his elders do, from small privileges granted by the protection of Luciani. Having no real alternative, Malik will adapt to the environment in which he is immersed and will learn very quickly how to progress in the underworld. Taking advantage of its weekly release, he begins his own business on the outside. His scheming will comes into conflict with the Luciani’s interests.
“The Prophet” is a film which shows us the learning in the process. It portrays a young offender whose detention will turn him into a hardened criminal. But make no mistake, this picture is no ordinary gangster film. It is rather the story of a special destiny changing before our eyes from the beginning to the end of his confinement.
Jacques Audiard’s film has a sense of unparalleled power, a film in which we witness the making of a criminal. A story where brutality and malleability are respectively expressed by Niels Arestrup Tahar Rahim. Both characters complement each other perfectly. The two performances were justly rewarded by the Cesar statuette award for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor.
Needless to mention however what the film is not about. Indeed, the political dimension of reintegration after jail term is completely absent of the film. It was simply not the director’s intent to raise the issue. Equally unnecessary is the criticizing of the film for its lack of reality, the audience knows that the prison situation in France is not that of the United States. What matters is that the film is credible and in that sense “a prophet” is truer than reality.