[Theatrical Releases Poster]
The film begins after the sentencing of a young man, Malik – we have no idea who he is, or what he has done, we are just assured that he is going to prison and he claims he did not commit the crime. He is thrown into a system where he has no friends on the inside or the outside to help him. Through his interactions with the guards and other inmates, the audience learns that he cannot read, he has no vocational skills, and prison might be the best thing to ever happen to him since the prison uniform is an upgrade from his former clothes. This entire period of time is devoted to establishing who he is so we can see his transformation later. He is forced to murder or be murdered when approached by a gang leader and his posse who have control over many of the guards. Malik successfully murders, earns the protection of the gang, and then decides to better himself while in prison by going to school to learn to read.
We are thrown forward one year into our protagonist’s sentence. He “works” and is protected by the gang he previously murdered for. He is treated like a loyal servant by the head of the gang, while the other members disrespect and verbally abuse him. After the head discovers that Malik has learned the language of the group on his own, he decides to upgrade Malik from just his houseboy to someone he can use. Two years ahead, Malik has become close with the head and is one of his confidants. Meanwhile he is haunted, or maybe guarded, by the ghostly image of the man he murdered years before.
When Malik starts making his own decisions and choices for his own advancement through side enterprises, he starts a new chapter of his life that is run by criminal activity, outsmarting the enemy, and self advancement.
I enjoyed the many allusions to the creation of Islam through this film. There were many small details that hinted that Malik’s story paralleled Muhammed’s. Other small touches in the film that furthered this idea include Malik’s abundance of food, Malik’s fasting, and the symbolistic food that Malik chooses to consume (i.e croissant).
It was one of the longest movies I have ever sat through. It was a really, really long film. However, I was entertained the entire time and could not predict any of the twists or turns.