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April 22, 2019

Papillon (2018) --- "The Greatest Escape Adventure Ever Told."

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
    Directed by Michael Noer (Before the Frost), written by Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners, The Red Road), and based on the international best-selling autobiography books "Papillon" and "Banco" by Henri Charrière, Papillon (2017) tells the epic true story of Henri "Papillon" Charrière’s great escape. Papillon is a successful safecracker and thief for the Parisian underworld hoping to make it big so he and his wife can move to the countryside and start a family. But after making enemies with the wrong crowd and thus being wrongfully convicted for murder, Papillon is condemned to a life in the notorious penal colony on Devil's Island, French Guiana. Determined to regain his freedom, Papillon forms an unlikely friendship with fellow inmate and quirky convicted counterfeiter Louis Dega. In exchange for protection, Dega agrees to finance Papillon's escape but Dega seems to attract more trouble than Papillon initially thought. Will Papillon and Dega be successful in the escape? Or will it be a fools hope?

    Taking inspiration from the writers of the 1973 screenplay and Papillon himself, writer Aaron Guzikowski has created an engaging and dramatic story about strength, perseverance, and survival. Papillon gives the audience a chance to witness the darkness that lawmakers considered normal for all criminals during a period of high crime.
    On top of that, this film puts more emphasis on solitary confinement and the emotional, mental, and physical toll that it can have on a person. Most people that are subject to solitary confinement don’t always leave the same way, only a small percent of people are able to come away from it stronger than they were before. Overall, the film follows at a great pace that doesn’t feel dragged but makes you wonder what’s going to happen next. There is a touching moment at the end of the film where the audience learns from Papillon that his memoir does not merely tell his personal story, but rather it tells the story of the 80,000 prisoners who were condemned to the inhumane conditions of the French penal colony in South America. It was an engaging film experience that went beyond a simple remake but made a successful effort in making an impact.
    The cinematography was another strong aspect of the film. The Filmmakers used old photographs and archival footage of Camp de la Transportation in order to recreate it for the film. The natural environment was beautiful and helped convey the yearning for freedom that the prisoners, primarily Papillon, had. The music score was flawless and improved both the story and the visuals as well as helped bridge any gaps between them.
    Another strong aspect of this film is the unlikely bonding of Papillion and Dega. Although I have yet to see the original 1973 film, I have heard from a number of sources that the chemistry between Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman never quite worked or contributed to the film’s success. However, I can say without a doubt that the chemistry between Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek was excellent. Their characters were the complete opposite of each other and yet their complementary survival skills were what enabled them to endure the gruesome circumstances of living a hellish captivity. As for their individual roles, they were superb. Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) killed his performances as Henri “ Papillon” Charrière. He brought charm, swag, and a likableness that made you want to be friends with him despite his characters less- than-appropriate night job. On top of all that, Hunnam also did some intense preparation for the scenes solitary confinement: he lost 40lbs, stayed in the cell alone every night after filming without food or water and he even stayed silent too. This level of preparation takes guts, he broke himself down both physically and mentally, which resulted in him delivering a very powerful performance that allowed the audience to feel the weight of the loss and isolation his character felt. As for Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), he did not disappoint. He was believable as this delicate counterfeiter who had more enemies then he expected but what lacked in brawns he made up for in brains, which made him a strong compatible partner for Hunnam’s character.

    Overall, Papillon (2017) is a powerful and entertaining true story about loss, solitary confinement, and hope for freedom. Although I am aware of the 1973 film and autobiography books this film is based on, the remake is a masterpiece. The story does not only tell the story of Papillion and subsequently Dega but rather it tells the story of the 80,000 prisoners who were condemned to the inhumane conditions of the French penal colony in South America. The cinematography and music score further carry the film’s message and manage to convey the yearning for freedom that the prisoners had. The cast performances were solid both individually but also together, the strongest performance came from Charlie Hunnam and then Rami Malek later on. I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys true story based films or if you enjoyed other such films like The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Great Raid (2005), and Unbroken (2014).

Final Vote --- 7.8 of 10 stars

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