Malik El Djebena, (skillfully played by newcomer, Tahar Rahim) is condemned to prison for six years for a petty crime that is not fully revealed. Part Arab, part Corsican and illiterate, he is only 19, naive and impressionable and must adhere to the rules of the prison system as well as learn to navigate the corridors of the prison cells.
Cornered by the leader of the Corsican gang, Cesar Luciani (brilliantly portrayed by Niels Arestrup) who currently rules the prison, Malik is given a series of "missions" to carry out in exchange for protection.
As his first "mission," Malik is forced to kill a prisoner, Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi) who's scheduled to testify against Cesar in an organized-crime trial.
With no way out of the request, there is only one thing he can do and in a most gruesome scene, Malik achieves the mission which raises his profile in Cesar's eyes but with strange consequences to his psyche.
Malik is forever haunted by the ghost of the slain Reyeb, who almost becomes his confidant. Reyeb comes to him when he is in his cell always seemingly sending some subtle messages about Malik's actions.
After the killing, Malik's profile is elevated to becoming the right hand man to Cesar and his status in the prison has been raised almost immediately. He acquires a larger cell and better privileges.
Malik is a fast absorber, learning quickly the unwritten rules and he uses his mixed Arab-Corsican background to play off each group to his ends eventually rising up the prison ranks.
He manages to survive the many dangerous threats that are thrown his way, succeeding each time and transforming as a new force within the prison.
When he is finally released, it's a miracle that of all people, he is the one that walks away unscathed.
Malik enters the world with a new beginning ahead of him and a new level of confidence within him but as he walks away from the prison we see many people waiting, watching and walking after him.
We are left wondering are his enemies catching up with him or do they just want to be in the presence of the new leader - the prophet?"A Prophet" won the Grand Prix award at the Cannes 2009 Film Festival.