A Prophet

Rated 4.0

What happens when you toss an unformed Corsican Arab teenager into a French prison population violently divided between Corsicans and Arabs? By filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s own estimation, what happens is the “anti-Scarface,” a gangster epic of brutal, tragic and emphatically unromantic self-actualization. It’s also a parable of modern France, and maybe the first to touch this particular bundle of nerves with this much force since Albert Camus. Audiard’s arty but forthright storytelling has just the right ratio of rigor and elasticity to counterpoint the pulpy enormity of his protagonist’s arc; it’s all so determinedly, engrossingly well-played—and just as well-cast, with nonpro newcomer Tahar Rahim as the self-made thug and Niels Arestrup as the mob boss presiding over his sprawling odyssey of unsentimental education. It may be grim, but ultimately it’s a story of survival, both topical and timeless.