Early in Jacques Audiard‘s Un Prophete, 19-year old Malik El Djebena, played by Tahar Rahim, newly incarcerated on a six-year sentence for assaulting a police officer, is talking with another inmate, Reyeb. Malik is illiterate and without assistance from outside the prison; he also has no protection from the other inmates. When Reyeb realizes that Malik can’t read, he tells him to use his time in prison wisely. As he tells Malik, come out of prison better than when you went in.

Reyeb simply means that Malik should learn to read, but these words have a much greater impact on Malik than Reyeb could ever imagine. Against his will, Malik has been sent by the Corsican mafia running the prison to Reyeb to kill him. His choice is to do this job or be killed himself. With nowhere else to turn, Malik ultimately chooses survival and kills Reyeb in a bloody struggle. This “success” sets him on a path towards his goal of coming out of prison better than he went in.

Here’s the trailer:

Of the three crime movies I’ve seen this year, including The Town and Animal Kingdom, A Prophet is by the far the best. Suspenseful, action-packed, and even kind of magical, A Prophet is an excellent movie.