Un Prophete: a petty criminal makes big waves in jail as he climbs up the criminal ranks inside the prison. This is the very epitome of a very, very broody-moody slow burner. In saying that, the direction’s absolutely solid, with key scenes being well handled and delivered – it’s just that at 155 minutes it could have just done with more brutal editing though – there’s lots of filler scenes that seem to just ramp up the runtime, and too many slow shots of the main guy looking contemplative for my liking. It’s very French, with what’s clearly some big French, socio-political issues and a French focus on race, identity and . Acting-wise, prison leader Cesar wipes the floor with everyone else; such a fantastic range. The story’s as grim, downtrodden, depressing, gritty, worst-case-scenario non-glamorised crime drama as you can get. It’s strange because I remember being blown away by ‘The Beat that my Heart Skipped’, however despite their similarities, ‘Un Ptophéte’ (and ‘Rust and Bone‘) feel like they’re handicapped by the pace.
The Eagle: twenty years after his father led 5,000 Roman soldiers to their death a rookie tries to restore his family’s name by finding the lost Roman ‘eagle standard’. In a nutshell the biggest problem this film has is lackadaisical direction – every other issue seems to stem from this: naff/ridiculous plot, complacent acting, lazy storytelling… There’s genuinely a scene where a minor character says “To find them you have to go over the snowy hills and into the next glen” – there’s a 5 second shot of our soldiers struggling through snow, and wham – they’re back in normal terrain again!!! Complimenting the visual vomit is the corniest stock Gaelic music, that drones away in the background when the soldiers are in the highlands. To make the film more sellable there are a few gratuitous action scenes but you can’t really see what’s going on, and it winds up a blurry, shaky mess. The only redeeming part is when Mark Strong appears and shows everyone how to act properly! All in, it just all feels a bit amateur, and like more of a project about someone finding their roots / heritage, than wanting to let a decent story take centre stage. If you wish to see a film about southerners taking on crazed tribes of ugly Scottish people check out Doomsday instead! Or if you want to keep it historical – Spartacus.