Tuesday, March 23, 2010

a proper review: a prophet (un prophète)

since this film made me delay my sleep for more than 2 hours and that it is very rare for me to finish something in one viewing i figured it should only make sense to write a proper review instead of my usual 'yeah this shit is yeah yeah okay not bad yeah this shit is kinda yeah good shit'.

this french fare had a simple premise, prison + gangs (i confess i have a thing for prison gang flicks, i might have an idea why), and a rise to underground glory ala scarface. it followed the footsteps of 2008 italian offering gomorra and many other classic predecessors (especially those brazilian favela movies) in bringing an extremely gritty dimension to the mafia genre.

truthfully the storyline was not only predictable but it was already announced with every promotional gesture. of course, an air of uncertainty would definitely add some kind of excitement but a foreseen affair that could still make you surrender your attention and render it glued to each scene absorbing every development with so much anticipation is a very special one. that is one true mark of a great movie.

in my opinion, other than the beautiful presentation in terms of colours, camerawork, screenplay and editing, and the occasional subtle surrealisms, what really made the movie were the two main actors tahar rahim as our quote unquote hero malik and niels arustrup as the corsican kingpin cesar who rules the prison with his gang's power over guards.

malik is quite a unique character, all his emotions no matter how you can tell from some onscreen suggestions (such as those surreal cellmate scenes) is there are only shown slightly and he has the tendency to go with the flow and make the best of what he has or is given. when we are first introduced to him, he let out in a very short burst about his innocence to the prison personnel surveying him but settled down in haste and calmly recommenced with his interview as soon as the questioner ignored it.

the same goes when he was forced to commit homicide, it inflicted a major trauma on him and will haunt him forever it seems (to the point of randomly baring his tongue out during check-ups) but he has the ability to live with everything. possibly, his mind and emotions have developed a compartment system that allows him to roll with the punches smoother than your usual. he is also not engrossed in his identity, he might seem to be a muslim arab but has no guilt or qualms about being associated with the corsicans, and he eats pork. all this sets you up for what to expect from this particular figure, a strong indicator of what type of person he is.

the most dangerous kind when you think about it, an unpredictable character hustling and scheming through a tortured linear path. sometimes you can sense the endearing innocence in his wide eyed fascination at the modest things he must have been deprived of or taken away from such as the feeling of sea water touching his feet at the beach, the view and free food from an airplane, the warm embrace of carrying an infant, or even at the simplest, looking out the window during a car ride. but in other instances, some of his actions which are largely impulsive deserves adoration from the most ruthless of cunning thugs.

his first and arguably last boss, cesar, is also complex in his own way. he has a sadistic way about him, sometimes administering intimidation in the most sickeningly violent way (such as trying to spoon an eye out). but his swagger is of an abusive father, and like a nostalgic son his underlings could easily fall into the trap of feeling sorry for him which is something that must've crossed the mind of malik but if you already know our protagonist by now you should understand that it is too hard to know what to expect from malik.

one part towards the end in particular was really touching and i can't even quite pinpoint why. malik smoking a cigar looking afar at the now powerless cesar who is kept from approaching him by malik's goons. you can read a million subtle gestures from the way he is looking at his former boss from contempt to pity but whatever it may be, he stays put, exactly where he is, not making even a single sound, as he smokes the last puff and then goes on with his life.

in the final scene that to me is one of the best ending i've seen in a gangster film no matter how inelaborate it was, i would like to conclude that all malik really wanted is what everyone wants, all the simple things in life. he might have acquired it in the most daring and nihilistic way but that is all that he wishes for, and it is in a way, noble. or at least, that is what i wish to believe.

i can say i really like the main character, he has a kiddie way about him that i find cute. this makes me feel for his plight and every time he pulls off a badass move successfully i can't help but to feel happy for him. the movie tried to somehow relate his fate with that of a prophet when he managed to predict something by way of deja vu, and that in the beginning he was illiterate and along the way learned to read and write. and like many prophets, he was drastically thrown into something any regular person would dread, a labored path riddled with countless obstacles but somehow worked his way through it all. the actor played it really well, i'm gonna be on the lookout for this guy (he's kind of a cutie too ahaks). to be able to make you feel something through just facial expressions is a gift.

the movie overall brought a new shade of gangland to the table, the muslim/arab variety. we've seen muslims mostly as villains in a terrorist setting so it's rare to see them in a more humbler but still grim light. and truthfully, you can't help but parallel this with what goes on in our country. the band of 'brothers' who most of the time can look the most pious but will do whatever is necessary to defend and take care of their 'community'. it all sounds too familiar.

bonus reviews:
green zone
this movie was alright. i loved the bourne trilogy, and sure this one puts that concept in a more realistic setting, but i didn't expect realistic settings. it might please some critics to be more realistic but to tell you the truth what i wanted was jason bourne iraq edition to shit out some kick-ass surreal shit and beat the shit out of the pentagon like what he did to c.i.a. but alas, they chose to go the more captain obviousy route as if we didn't already know what's up with the wmd, it was nice action but did not please my vengeful fantasies.


promising concept and some great actors involved. even the feel of the movie was kinda dope but as the film goes on despite an okay twist it got way too routine and common to be good.

i really loved this one. i do have a thing for movies related to sci-fi and this movie despite not being straight forwardly sci-fi used it as a setting so effectively. the actor dude was really good. the robot was kinda cute too. every movie that has some fucks abandoned or placed in space lonelimently would involve some evil twist but this one did not suck in that cliche and had a really nice flow to it resulting in a kinda-satisfying ending. to me whether a movie succumbs to the age old good hollywood ending or not does not really matter, what matters is if the ending is good that's it.

butterfly effect
i liked this movie. had a really nice twilight-zony concept going, the adult support cast could've been better though. the childhood part was great, but when those kids turned to adults shit just lost a bit of magic especially the girl.

awesome chevy chase shit. probably the best chevy chase flick i've seen. he is so smooth (and awesomely random) with his wit, sarcasm, and insults.


Vermouth & Viola said...

what a coincidence. i just watched it on saturday. this is a rock solid brilliant work. i especially love the way Reyeb incessantly 'haunts' him. the blurred effect of the dream he had of the murder he committed, as well as the way Reyeb haunts him (playing with fire, getting alight) is significant to show that he's not a sadistic remorseless bastard, but he has to pay penance in self guilt, as well as with a vague awareness that he would go to hell one day over what he did. The ending too was awesome. All he wanted is the simple things, but with bonus points trailing behind his back. Brilliant =)

penyelamat dunia said...

the way the haunting scenes were done was very good, casual but eerie. yeah the homeboys in the big cars tailing him, that was a really nice touch.