With action occurring in three languages, not including the English subtitles, Jacques Audiard's powerhouse prison epic has a string of intricate plotting that makes it seem like a two- or three-season story arc on HBO. But it's a good kind of long, a Godfather
kind of long. In a high-security prison in the northwest of France, Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim), a young French Arab, is beginning a sentence for, evidently, attacking a police officer. He's unkempt, illiterate, friendless—and essentially harmless. How long can he last in jail? Before Malik can slip into the protection of the Arab prison population, he is summoned by the ruthless leader (Niels Arestrup) of the Corsican gang that rules the facility, who orders the young prisoner to kill a fellow inmate. The ensuing encounter changes him profoundly. This foreign-language Oscar nominee is a violent gangster drama, and one that's hard to follow at times, but we're left marveling at the distance Malik travels in the time it takes the film to dramatize several years of his life.