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  • Don Ford

Don Reviews "Papillon"

There have been so many great films dealing prison life like “The Shawshank Redemption” to “Midnight Express” to “American Me”. Granted, there is also the other side of that coin with flops like “Lock Up” and “Escape Plan,” but how much is truth versus reality. What is prison like in real life, and how well should prisoners be treated?

“Papillon” is an remake of the 1983 film of the same name, with this version being directed by Michael Noer (Son of God) and starring Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), Roland Moller (The Commuter), Yorick Van Wageningen (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Ian Beattie (Quantico), and Christopher Fairbank (Alien 3). The film is based on true events about the imprisonment of Henri “Papillon” Charriere (Hunnam) from his autobiography released in 1969. Papillon is a petty criminal framed for murder in Paris in 1933, sent to the prison colony in French Guiana. While on the boat transporting him there, he meets up with Louis Dega (Malek), serving time for financial crimes that made him rich. Charriere needs money to attempt an escape and offers Dega protection in prison in exchange for money so they can escape. What follows is the story of their multiple escape attempts while trying to survive the harsh prison life.

The cinematography style is good here as it fit the mood and overall look to the point where at times I felt like I was in prison with them. The three main characters of the warden (Wageningen), Papillon, and Dega all do well, with Hunnam and Malek truly stepping up. I possibly see talk of a possible best supporting actor nod next year for Malik here for a very strong performance.

Even though the plot did keep me interested, I truly felt the two hour and fifteen minute run time. The violence and intensity kept things grounded in reality in a way that reminded me of “Midnight Express” on a different level. Totaling all of this up, I will still recommend “Papillon” as a matinee afternoon showing in the theaters.

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