From the French word for "Butterfly" and the book by Henri Charìerre, this prison drama is on lengthy side and the pacing does come to the screen rather slowly, the reasoning behind which is so the audience can better engage and empathise with the prisoners' incarceration on a dismal, austere and desolate penal colony.
Steve McQueen & Dustin Hoffman play two prisoners incarcerated on the notoriously inescapable Devil's Island, they strike up an unlikely friendship and plot to fly from the roost.
The two main performances are faultless and though a little of the slow-building narrative could have been curtailed, the film still holds up as a classic over four decades later.
D: Michael Noer
Bleecker Street/Czech Anglo/Red Granite/FishCorb (Joey McFarland, David Koplan, Ram Bergman & Roger Corbi)
US/Serbia/Montenegro/Malta 🇺🇸🇷🇸🇲🇪🇲🇹 2017 (released 2018)
W: Aaron Guzikowski [based on the books "Papillon" and "Banco" by Henri Charrière & the 1973 screenplay by Dalton Trumbo & Lorenzo Semple, Jr.]
DP: Hagen Bogdanski
Ed: John Axelrad & Lee Haugen
Mus: David Buckley
Charlie Hunnam (Henri 'Papillon' Charrière), Rami Malek (Louis Dega), Christopher Fairbank (Jean Castilli), Yorick van Wageningen (Warden Barrot), Eve Hewson (Nanette)
Henri Charrière's book Papillon originally was adapted to the screen for a 1973 film, and it really didn't need to be remade. I guess distributors agreed, since this film spent a year on the festival circuit prior to a very limited release at cinemas before it hit home media and streaming services.
Based on Charrière's real life experiences of his incarceration at Devil's Island penitentiary in French Guiana, this adaptation does away with all ambiguity by showing the events leading up to his arrest, as well as him visiting a publisher after his escape so the audience know that this is based on a true story.
Despite being twenty minutes shorter than the 1973 version, it somehow feels an hour longer, probably because it lacks the atmosphere that made the original film a classic and there really isn't anything in this film to convince us of the period it's set in, feeling modernised and contemporary as a result. It also has to be said that Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek are incredibly poor substitutes for Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.