A movie like The Godfather with 8.0/10 in IMDB ratings and you and me know very well what that amount of ratings mean...:)
Underdog stories are the stuff of feel good films. Even ones involving the mafia, like Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas or Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy, allow us, the viewer, to connect with the characters, we are holy in their world and as such we abide by their morals. A Prophet is not like those films. It falls into the category that the Italian film Gomorra (Gomorrah) is part of, a deconstruction of our romanticized view of crime. At the same time the main character of A Prophet,Malik, spends the entire film in a prison, and its clear by the end, thats what built up his success.
The movie follows a young arab, Malik, as he is placed in prison for 6 years. We never find out his initial crime, but by the time he gets out he's also responsible for numerous murders as well as drug trafficking. The lead up to his fall, or rise depending on your viewpoint, to heavier crimes, happens when he becomes close with the Corsican mobster, Cesar. As Cesar and his crew work their way around the prison system, Malik begins his own crew, outside of both the Corsican's and, the opposing force, the Arabs.
The film at first seems to be made in a harshly realistic style. The film is shot handheld, and their doesn't appear to be anything out of place with reality. All that changes after Malik commits his first murder. He begins to see visions of the future, brought to him by the murdered man. His clairvoyance earns him the nickname "prophet".
The film is reminiscent of Bronson a british prison movie about the life of British criminal Charles Bronson. Both films feature extremely strong performances by the lead. Both are stylized with fantasy elements. Both are prison films. A Prophet though has much stronger supporting characters. It also has a plot that makes you feel that you've seen a complete story.
The director of the film says that it is fictional, and that it isn't trying to send a message, but the race relations, and the fall from grace that the film shows can be seen as messages. Is it coincidental that Malik becomes educated when he goes deep into the crime scene? Or that he exits the prison system more criminal than when he entered? Perhaps it is, but at what point does the subconscious of the director, or the character, shine through no matter how hard he tries to suppress it.