Directed by Jacques Audiard
Written by Thomas Bidegain, Jacques Audiard, Abdel Raouf Dafri, and Nicolas Peufaillit
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif
Malik El Djebena (Rahim) is sent to a French prison after a youth filled with criminal behavior. Once inside he’s quickly forced into service by a powerful and dangerous mafia kingpin (Arestrup). As he finds himself becoming increasingly involved in mafia dirty work, Malik begins to plan for his own future. His plan could get him killed, or put him on top.
Jacques Audiard (De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté) not only directed this film, he helped to write the screenplay. His work comes together wonderfully, with a great story and fantastic acting. Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, and Adel Bencherif lead the way for a talented cast that is diverse and unique. The film earned a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
The camera work in this film is wonderful. The use of color and lighting create a unique feel for the story. Overall, the visuals really take advantage of the screenplay and the more powerful moments in the story. This includes some incredibly wonderful and intense moments of violence.
The score and the music chosen for this movie are wonderfully done. The songs often create a unique contrast to the moments on the screen. The sound is also nicely done, taking advantage of the settings and the action.
This film’s major weakness is length. There is a lot of dark emotion portrayed throughout the story, and at over two and a half hours, this does lose steam through some segments. I think this film could have benefited from a bit of better editing. Thankfully the payoff is worth the wait.
Despite being filmed in several languages, the film is easy to follow. Like most of my favorite foreign films, this one isn’t disrupted by the subtitles. If you’re a fan of foreign cinema this is one worth checking out. I’d also recommend this one for fans of crime films or darker dramas. I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.