Synopsis: “The Prophet” is the story of Malik, a young Arab imprisoned because he wouldn’t snitch. At age 18, he arrives in a French prison completely lost. At first, he maintains obedience to the prison’s reigning Corsican mafia, and slowly rises in the ranks, playing a dangerous game of double-crossing the Corsicans, and ultimately destroys his enemies. Following his release six years later, he successfully builds his own empire and is the leader of the Arab mafia and a hero to his community.
Round-up: "Audiard’s 'A Prophet' has already been compared to Scorsese’s nearly twenty year old 'Goodfellas' many times over the past 24 hours here in France for its engaging examination of a seedy, gangster-driven underworld," indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez said. "Tahar Rahim’s 'Malik' is not unlike Ray Liotta’s 'Henry Hill.' An innocent who quickly comes of age in the mob, yet can’t evade the inner demons he’s stirring with his shady activity. The young Arab is schooled in the ways of the mafia by a Corsican godfather, leading to an inevitable conflict." Hernandez profiled the film's star Rahim, announcing him as one of the festival's major breakouts. "I had to create somebody totally different and it was extremely difficult,” Hernandez quoted Rahim, from the film's press conference Saturday, “I had to make up the role... I locked myself up. I imprisoned myself in an idea, as it were, [and] found it difficult to figure out what I was doing.” The Hollywood Reporter's Peter Brunette certainly felt he figured it out, writing that "what's most immediately remarkable about the film is the raw intensity of its hyper-realistic encounters, hugely enhanced by the superb acting of newcomer Rahim," while Screen's Jonathan Romney goes even further in his acclaim: "Newcomer Tahar Rahim carries an extraordinary weight, on screen practically in every shot, and proves a mesmerising centre to the film, limning Malik as an unformed, seemingly weightless figure at the start, who gradually acquires considerable depth, forging his personality and mind through hard conscious struggle." In a fantastic Cannes overview entitled "Where Art Trumps Industry," The New York Times' Manohla Dargis highlights Audiard’s film as one of her favorites thus far: "Sweeping and precisely observed — in one scene a gunman stares transfixed at a pair of expensive shoes in a shop window before committing a multiple hit — the film tells the story of one person that eventually becomes a story of an entire world ordered by violence. Using an occasional surrealistic flourish — a ghost makes regular appearances, at one point engulfed in flames — Mr. Audiard tracks Malik’s descent into this underworld with transparent compassion but none of the sentimentalizing that softens and cheapens too many mob stories." indieWIRE's own Anthony Kaufman calls the film one of Cannes' most conventional this year, but also one of the most satisfying: "Audiard skillfully captures Malik’s confusion with a wandering handheld camera and his limited worldview with a masked lens that only reveals a small circular portion of the frame - a closed-off perspective that will inevitably widen by the films’ conclusion." One of the film's few mixed comes care of The AV Club's Mike D'Angelo, who finds that while "we have a frontrunner," his "hunger for something bold and visionary remains unsated."