Thursday, March 11, 2010

A PROPHET (Jacques Audiard, 2009)

***½
France



The world needs another prison/mafia movie about as urgently as it needs a new Shakespeare adaptation. But since we must endure another one – and a fresh Cannes-endorsed Jacques Audiard joint is certainly a ‘must’ – it helps to find it so carefully considered and calibrated to a breathless breakout performance.

With uncanny instinct Tahar Rahim anchors you through the gradual, dense and erratic moral degradation that befalls his alter ego once he is transferred from a juvenile detention centre to a bluntly observed prison system. At any given point through the lurching, regularly nerve-wracking proceedings, from Rahim's gait and posture alone you can sense the phase he has reached - be it paralysing panic, unfounded cockiness, tentative opportunism or a tortuously, permanently warped sense of what is worth aspiring to. It’s the kind of performance that goads you to dodge your better instincts and start using words like ‘galvanising’ or ‘electrifying’.

Certainly though, some of the kudos ought to be reserved for the magisterial Niels Arestrup: as frightening and arresting an antagonist as anyone out of Dickens.

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