Papillon Review

Papillon - Theatrical Trailer

Unless you’ve seen original Papillon with Steve McQueen, Henri Charrière might be a name that you may not recognize. If you’ve never heard of him then you must know his tale. There’s just something so inspirational about his story. That’s why it makes sense that Hollywood would want to retell it again for modern audiences. But is Papillon a worthy retelling of Charrière story?

Papillon is an interesting adaptation of Charrière’s memoirs. It gives audiences a lot of information to digest but it provides it at such a slow pace. Be that as it may, Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek impress with their great performances.

Papillon follows Henri Charrière, a Parisian safecracker who is framed for murder and condemned to a life at a notorious penal colony. Determined to regain his freedom, Charrière forms an unlikely alliance with a quirky convicted counterfeiter named, Louis Dega. In exchange for protection, Dega agrees to finance their escape from this notorious prison.

Papillon - Charlie Hunnam

Henri Charrière’s life is an inspirational story about not giving up despite the direst of circumstances. It’s simply amazing to see what the human mind can go through when put through these situations. Needless to say, he goes through the proverbial ringer during his time. But this is the type of characteristic that the film is trying to establish with Henri. He’s strong-willed and stubborn to a fault. That’s why it’s nice to see another character to counter his personality. Louis Dega is the complete antithesis of Henri Charrière. He’s frail and weak-willed.

However, both of them develop as characters during the course of the film. As the film progresses, Dega begins to develop a sense of bravery and strength. At the same time, Charrière shows signs of sensitivity and friendship—especially towards Dega. Speaking of which, their relationship is what all friendships should strive for. Perhaps, not the way it began, but definitely at how both look out for each other. When most felons would leave their “friends” in a heartbeat, both of them still looked out for each other.

Unfortunately, the film is just simply too long. It drags to the point of pure boredom. It’s as if we’re stuck in the solitary confinement room along with him. Also, there were several times where it seems as if the film’s about to end, but the film continues along. This is primarily due to the fact that this film plays out like a theatre play. In other words, there’s no cohesion between each of the “acts.” Not to mention, there isn’t much suspense when it comes to the prison escape scenes. These scenes aren’t as exciting or thrilling as one might expect. It is, however, a realistic take on a prison escape.

Papillon - Rami Malek

Be that as it may, Charlie Hunnam thoroughly impresses here. However, Hunnam still can’t get rid of his accent. Similar to Pacific Rim, it seems as if he still struggles to deliver lines without unconsciously giving away his accent. Nevertheless, he provides such a physicality to the role—especially in the scenes where he has to be silent. Hunnam lost so much weight for this role that it goes to show you how dedicated he was to this film.

Yet the biggest surprise comes from Rami Malek. His outstanding performance is a nice complement to Hunnam’s performance. Malek is the perfect actor to play a feeble inmate because he has that look and can act like one too. However, through the course of the film, he begins to exude confidence and strength in his character.

Overall, Papillon is an inspirational yet super slow film. Charrière’s story is such an interesting tale but Papillon may be too slow for people. Nevertheless, the film is full of fantastic performances by Hunnam and Malek. It’s just an honest shame because his story is just so interesting.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1311 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.