A Prophet is a much nominated film, and has garnered some major awards. When Malik, who has been in trouble with the law for most of his short life, is sent to prison again, it’s the Big House this time. There, the Corsican mafia rules, having control of the guards. When the Corsican leader César Luciani selects Malik to perform a hit, there is little he can do to refuse. He carries out the assignment in bloody fashion, earning if not the respect, at least the protection of the Corsicans.
Slowly, Malik gains more and more responsibilities from Cesar who comes to rely on Malik’s loyalty and discretion. Malik is the ultimate self-made man. In prison he learns to read, learns to look out for himself, learns a second language just by hanging around and listening. He’s ambitious and observes the way of power and intimidation. He learns to play factions off against each other, so well that his rise is rapid. When we see what he becomes, and remember the timid, scared inmate who was processed in to prison on that first day, we realize how far he has come.
A Prophet is a prison film, showing the corruption of the system, and the power of illicit authority. Prison does the job we understand that it’s there for. Sort of. It rehabilitates Malik and makes him a ‘productive’ member of society. Just not the society and the productivity we might expect. We may see more of Malik, because the ending sets us up for a sequel. That would be an interesting prospect, given the possibilities presented by the optimistic final scene.