'Papillon' Is Competently Made, But Why Was It Made In The First Place?

By James Jay Edwards
Released: August 24, 2018
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Synopsis
A prisoner detained on a remote island plots his escape in this second adaptation of the novels by Henri Charrière.

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Film Review
Production
The trend of remaking movies is almost as old as the movies themselves. Usually, it's horror movies like Carrie or Poltergeist that are subjected to being "reimagined," but no genre is safe; the last few years have given moviegoers remakes of everything from The Magnificent Seven to Endless Love. The newest edition of "is nothing sacred?" is brought to you by Papillon.

Charlie Hunnam (left) stars as Henri 'Papillon' Charriére and Rami Malek (right) stars as Louis Dega and in director Michael Noer's PAPILLON, a Bleecker Street release. Credit: Jose Haro / Bleecker Street.


Papillon is about a French safecracker named Henri 'Papillon' Charriére (Charlie Hunnam from Pacific Rim and "Sons of Anarchy") - nicknamed that because of the butterfly tattoo that adorns his chest - who is framed for the murder of a pimp and sent to the penal colony of French Guiana to serve out his life sentence. Even before he arrives at the prison camp, Papillon has his mind set on escape. He hooks up with a rich fellow inmate named Louis Dega (Rami Malek from Short Term 12) and offers to protect him from the rest of the violent prisoners in exchange for his bankrolling an escape. Dega agrees, and he and Papillon spend the next fourteen years trying to break out, with every taste of freedom just making them hungrier for the outside world.

Charlie Hunnam (right) stars as Henri 'Papillon' Charriére in director Michael Noer's PAPILLON, a Bleecker Street release. Credit: Jose Haro / Bleecker Street.


Like its 1973 predecessor, this version of Papillon is based on the autobiographical book by the real Henri Charriére that chronicled his imprisonment and subsequent escape from Devil's Island in the 1930s. Director Michael Noer (Northwest) and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) stay pretty faithful with their adaptation (Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr. are even credited as cowriters), even if they do leave out a few crucial scenes from the original. Picture Hunnam and Malek in the place of Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, and you've got a pretty good idea of what you'll get with Papillon.

Charlie Hunnam stars as Henri 'Papillon' Charriére in director Michael Noer's PAPILLON, a Bleecker Street release. Credit: Jose Haro / Bleecker Street.


Papillon is a well-made movie, with capable performances, striking imagery, and a captivating story, but the whole thing just seems unnecessary. Papillon is one of those movies that really didn't need to be remade. Honestly, if you're going to spend the two hours and thirteen minutes, you may as well watch the original, as it is a better movie. Just like originals usually are.

Rami Malek (left) stars as Louis Dega and Charlie Hunnam (right) stars as Henri 'Papillon' Charriére in director Michael Noer's PAPILLON, a Bleecker Street release. Credit: Jose Haro / Bleecker Street.
Cinematography
Papillon was shot by cinematographer Hagan Bogdanski (W.E., The Beaver) on location in parts of Serbia, Montenegro, and Malta, and the imagery looks stunning. Bogdanski captures both the natural beauty of the locations and the desperate isolation of the men who are trapped there. The camera sweeps and sways past mountains, deserts, trees, and oceans; if it wasn't a movie about a prison colony, Papillon would attract a lot of tourism to the area. Inside the camps, Bogdanski follows the characters like a fly on the wall, emphasizing the claustrophobic conditions in which the men live day to day; the rooms are big, but they're packed to the sides with dirty, burly prisoners, and Bogdanski puts the viewer right in the pit with them so that they can almost smell the stench of urine and body odor. For as redundant of an exercise as Papillon is, it's a wonderful photographic experience.

Charlie Hunnam stars as Henri 'Papillon' Charriére in director Michael Noer's PAPILLON, a Bleecker Street release. Credit: Jose Haro / Bleecker Street.



Genres
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Release Date
August 24, 2018
MPAA Rating
R
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Story
Henri Charrière
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