A young French man of North African descent (Malik el Djebena) is sentenced to 6 years in prison and goes inside naive, illiterate and vulnerable. Faced almost immediately with a gut-wrenching choice to kill or be killed, the film focuses on the hard realities and choices inside. It’s a character study in the same vein as ‘There Will Be Blood’ with the central performance by Tahar Rahim one that is tense, captivating and utterly believable. The character has to show guts and make tough choices often and the film is also a coming-of-age story, a mafia/gang drama, power struggle and an original take on the prison drama.
Shot with a very gritty realism and at times claustrophobic quality, there is still space for some great techniques and visual touches and the occasional freeze-frame character introductions help you to keep a check on the main players.
Captivating without glamourising, long at 2hr30mins, although it feels a little shorter. Sits comfortably between “There Will Be Blood’ and “Gomorrah’.
4 on 5
Director – Jacques Audiard
Starring – Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif
UK Release – 22 January 2010