Jaques Audiard's tense prison drama A Prophet is one of the best films to come out of the sub genre in years. Tahar Rahim plays a young French Arabic man sentenced to six years in jail who is coerced into doing the bidding of a powerful Corsican mob boss also doing time (very well played by Niels Arestrup). Of course, it is not long before our protagonist becomes the eyes and ears of the kingpin, but he remains haunted by the things he's done to get where he is in the prison society. On top of that, he straddles the thin wall that keep the Corsicans and the growing population of Arab inmates from tearing each other apart, making everything he says and does all the more dangerous.
The film is cut with alacrity and intelligence, knowing when to slow it down for character development or the passing of time, and when to amp up the suspense and tension. Akin to last year's Gommorah in its style, the action is swift but gritty, and the performances are complex but intense. It's a knockout of a movie.
Even if the Foreign Language branch's executive committee is smart enough to keep this one on the shortlist of nine, I don't know if it can get that nomination. It may just be too raw and cool for their 1990's tastes. Cross your fingers. This film will need all the luck it can get in order to score a nod.
***1/2 out of ****