Greetings again from the darkness. This was France’s entry, and one of the odds-on favorites to win Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards (it did not win). Director Jacques Audiard brings us the gritty realism of power within the walls of a prison. We even get a glimpse into how power inside the walls translates into power in the outside world.
Tahan Rahim stars as Malik, a young, shy, weak boy (apparantly) wrongly sentenced for striking a police officer. Malik is quickly abused and taken advantage of by the stronger, seasoned convicts. Ahh, but young Malik is a quick study and is dragged under the control of the powerful Corsican group led by Cesar Luciana (played with fire by Niels Arestrup). He studies Cesar’s process and moves and quickly learns to run his own side businesses by walking a fine line between the various groups in prison.
See, Malik is a French born Arab who becomes a trusted adviser to the Corsican crime boss. Although, the Corsicans call him a dirty Arab and the Arabs don’t trust him because of his affiliation with the Corsicans. What a mess for Malik. But he is quite the opportunist and makes the best of his situation.
Some of the story lines are brutal, while others are quite clever. This adds to the realism and makes this an intense story to follow. Jacques Audiard also directed the fine The Beat that My Heart Skipped and that film also featured Niels Arestoun, who flashes some evil eyes and plays his low key power to the hilt. He is great fun to watch here.