Directed by Jacques Audiard
Written by Thomas Bidegain & Jacques Audiard
This is a film that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at last year’s ceremonies. It received quite a bit of hype then and thereafter as being a fresh, inventive gangster film. Unlike another French gangster film, Mesrine, which stars Vincent Cassel, this film features no well known actor, not in America at least. So when the time came around to settle into this two and a half hour film, I sat down with no real notion of the plot, but with good expectations. It may not been as prophetic as the title suggests, but it was still one solid gangster flick.
The story is, and isn’t, like any gangster film I have seen. The main character, Malik, is in prison for the entirety of the film. Despite this seemingly obvious hurdle, Malik still manages to slowly become a major player in the mafia and becomes more than the Arab kid that entered the prison. In the beginning of his 6 year stint, he was forced to kill, being an unknown and a new kid. This put him in the blessings, and protection, of the Corsicans, which seems odd for an Arab in a French prison. From there he befriends the boss man, and soon slowly becomes more and more of a factor, despite still being in prison.
Because the film is set in the prison, there is little to really look at, in terms of changing scenery at least. But when the film leaves the prison walls it is refreshing, but the look of the film was interesting, even within the prison. The filmmakers found interesting ways to portray the story, just as the writers did by containing it within the prison. The development of the character of Malik is a fascinating study on him as a human character, as well as a person serving time in prison. The situations he is put in and the results are fun to watch, though I would not say that they wowed me ever.
This is a really good film fueled by a strong central performance and a great supporting turn by Niels Arestrup. But what seems to hold this film together is the quietness of it. For a gangster film it sure is devoid of the larger than life figures, action set pieces and shouting matches. It has its arguments and its violence, but for the most part it is a silent examination accented nicely by the mood setting, minimal score provided by Alexandre Desplat. I would recommend this to fans of gangster films, fans of French films, or just fans of film. It may rock your socks off, or it may not, but I guarantee it won’t disappoint. Just a rock solid film worthy of the praise it received.