A Prophet was but it's still an entertaining ride. Though not necessarily a happily ever after ending one. Can't wait to see how they butcher that part in (what I suspect to be) the inevitable US remake.
Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann) has taken a job as a prison guard to support himself and his pregnant wife. Looking to make a good impression he shows up for work a day early to get a sense of things. While he's being shown around a riot breaks out. Initially injured Juan is left behind by the fleeing guards and awakens in cell #211. After an amazingly quick assessment of the situation he decides the safest course of action is to pretend to be a new inmate. Juan is successful at this gambit though his true identity hangs on by a thread for most of the film - of course generating a good deal of the dramatic tension.
Malamadre (Luis Tosar) is the leader of the riot, which is far more strategic in nature than it initially seems to be. Malamadre steals most of the scenes and is a big part of the reason to see this film. Juan ingratiates himself with Malamadre and essentially becomes an adviser to the rebellion leadership. As things unfold he also begins to understand that a fair number of the complaints from the maximum security prisoners may well be reasonable - bringing a bit more complexity than your run of the mill prison riot movie (though not sure I can really name too many of those - just really a feeling). The film is well paced and kept my interest throughout. It's certainly one of the more compelling films for your attention that I watched at SIFF this year. I don't want to really say anything more about the film's plot - the performances are solid but the most interesting thing for me was watching in what direction they took the film. I don't expect this was strong enough that it'll make my top ten for 2010 (a lot of people did love, love, love it). But it's definitely worth checking out when it arrives at a theater near you.
BTW - half way through writing this I started to suspect that Malamadre isn't really the character's given name. Unless my very bad Spanish is way off it's making me giggle that the character is referred to as bad/evil mother all the way through the film. If there's a more fluent Spanish speaker that can confirm I'd appreciate it.