Papillon (I) (2017)
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There's a lot of emphasis on a few brutal scenes yet there's scant coverage of the relationships of the characters. But for the most part it's just a visual jumble. The narrative jumps about and spends too long on lingering scenes and nowhere near enough time on characters and the linear story-line.
The effects of years of brutality have almost no physical effect on the prisoners who look like they just hopped out of make-up after a good lunch!
The 1973 version is timeless and a work of cinematic genius. This version will be forgotten in a few weeks.
Hunnam, who plays the main protagonist, gives a brilliant performance. He is an intelligent actor who has given his own original touch to the role. He plays the role with a lot of realism and intensity. The surprise package of "Papillon" is Rami Malek, who plays Hunnam's friend. He has given an outstanding performance that challenges the one originally done by the great Dustin Hoffman.
The direction is effective and the original atmosphere of the 1973 flick has been captured well enough.
A remake should have the ambition to offer a different take on the events of the original movie and to improve it. There are very few of these elements to be found in this film. If compared to the original film, this remake shows us roughly fifteen minutes of the lead character's life before his wrongful conviction. We can see him cracking a safe, attending a party with members of an organized crime gang and spending time with his girlfriend. This exposition also shows a reason why Papillon would be framed for a murder he didn't commit. He kept some of the diamonds he stole for the gang to offer them to his girlfriend and was seen in the process of doing just that.
One element where the remake nearly matches the original film's quality is the acting. If compared to the unique Steve McQueen and the diversified Dustin Hoffman, Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek are obviously less experienced but they might deliver the best performances of their careers. Their friendship feels stronger and makes even more sense than in the original film. Charlie Hunnam convinces as resilient man who never gives up on his dream of freedom and comes surprisingly close to Steve McQueen's charismatic performance. Rami Malked does a solid job as scared intellectual and has great chemistry with Charlie Hunnam but can't match Dustin Hoffman's natural talent.
On all other levels, the remake is quite a letdown. The new version is about twenty minutes shorter than the original film but ironically feels much longer than the film released forty-five years ago that already had a few lengths. The events leading to the first escape attempt are stretched and the scenes in solitary confinement are played brilliantly but end up being quite repetitive. On the other side, important scenes have been cut or excluded in the remake. The men's haunting passage at a leper colony was completely cut from the remake. Papillon's life with a native tribe lasts for about five minutes in the remake even though he lived there for a long period of time, got married to two sisters and even impregnated them. The ending is quite abrupt in the remake as the director shows a brief scene of Papillon's return to France decades after his final escape without telling what happened in nearly three decades between both events, making the remake feel less concise and focused than the original film that ended with Papillon's succesful escape.
One element I would have liked to be mentioned is the fact that Henri Charrière's story was at least partially made up. He clearly wasn't as innocent and sympathetic as portrayed in the movie. Making his character a little bit more sinister would have been an intriguing addition if compared to the rather neutral original film. However, Papillon instead seems to be an even friendlier lead character than in the original film which is somewhat misplaced but goes along with typical Hollywood productions that fabricate heroic protagonists the audience wants to cheer for. In this case, this approach is too simplistic.
In the end, there are very few reasons to watch this remake. The exposition adds some depth to the lead character and the acting performances exceeded my expectations. However, the movie has more lengths than the original film, important scenes have been cut and the resolution feels misplaced. At the end of the day, this remake was quite unnecessary.
I had the privilege of seeing Papillon at the world premiere screening at TIFF (September 7th, 2017).
Because this movie is sadly going to endure never-ending comparison to the 1973 original, here's my opinion about that one. I actually found it very boring and I didn't feel engaged at all in the character's stories or struggles. I just could not get into it. The friendship between Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman felt so awkward and lacked chemistry to me, and I found the acting very "wooden" throughout most of it. I finished it feeling very confused as to why the movie has always been given such high praise. I realize that it was seen as a very riveting adventure epic back in the 70s, but it's 45 years later so there is nothing wrong with having a fresh/modernized telling of the story. We are in an era of "remakes" after all. Side note: this movie is not actually a remake of the original. Both movies were based on different interpretations of the book.
So what did I think of this new version? I was engaged during every single minute of it! It has something in it for everyone. It is gritty, raw, intense, emotional, dramatic, even humourous at times, and tells a powerful story of male friendship and loyalty in its purest form.
As for Charlie Hunnam (Henri Charrière aka Papillon), well he killed his performance! He did very intense preparation for the role by losing 40 lbs, and he even stayed in the prison cell alone, every night after filming, for 8 days without food or water. He also remained silent during that time. The weight loss and isolation is exactly what he did for his movie The Lost City of Z (8 months prior) so you can imagine how dedicated he is to his craft. He broke himself down, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally, and all of it made for very powerful solitary confinement sequences. (He said in an interview that by the end of filming he'd gotten as close as he wanted to get to feeling true madness.)
He also brought charm, swag, and likability to the character. He just carried the lead so perfectly!
This is the first role of Rami Malek's that I've seen and he did not disappoint! He also delivered a fantastic performance. He played the character Louis Dega in a less "idiotic" way than Dustin Hoffman and was a very strong scene partner for Charlie. They both brought their A game and really fed off each other.
The cinematography and editing were great, and the movie had great flow and pace. I didn't want it to end!
Overall, I think the thing people need to know before pre-judging this movie and assuming it's going to be terrible is that this version delves a lot deeper than the original does, and puts more emphasis on solitary confinement suffering, poor mental health, weight loss, and the male friendship. I think that's why I connected to it and felt a lot of investment in the story, and it's also why I think the performances were way better than Steve McQueen's and Dustin Hoffman's. Yes, I just said that. Just because that movie was considered a classic doesn't mean it can't be beaten. And in my opinion, it was definitely beaten. (Although, I'm sure people will be scared to admit that and feel like they are betraying Steve McQueen's memory..)
Anyway, I can't wait to see it again when it comes to theatres on August 24th. And I really think everyone should have an open mind and give it fair chance. Don't write it off before seeing it. And when you do see it, pretend the original never existed and judge this one own its own merits. Both movies are very different from each other and all 4 actors brought the characters to life in different ways. Ask yourself "is this movie engaging?" and "are the performances good?", instead of just "who did it better?".
The performances in this second Papillon are wonderful, even down to the smallest supporting role. Nobody overplays his role; the acting is naturalistic. The two leads' performances are so committed, though, that I felt real attachment to them, and believed in their friendship.
The movie, contrary to what I've read, is not visually dull; it's just not ostentatious.
A story this quiet (almost the Buddhist version of a prison-break movie) was never going to light the world on fire. Still, I'm sorry to see it getting so much hate here. It's a well-intentioned and well-made movie, and it had an emotional impact on me.
As for the people saying "why this movie? Why now?", you might consider reading a book like The New Jim Crow, or reading some recent research reports from groups like Amnesty International on prison conditions in 2018. Sadistic treatment of prisoners, of human beings, is a moral disgrace, and we aren't reminded of that fact often enough.
The story is a beautiful one. About friendship, loyalty, trust and courage. I had thoughts about how grateful I am to be living the life I currently live, after seeing what some people have endured through this movie.
Worth a watch that's for sure! 7/10
On its own, this is a perfectly watchable movie. Serviceable performances all around. Rami Malek in particular does a great job with what he's given, although that's to be expected from him. The issue here lies in the dialogue. The writing is okay at best, diving into outright cringe-worthy at the very worst. There were quite a few times where I found myself quietly snickering to myself because of just how forced and clichéd the dialogue felt.
The action is decent. It never devolves into outright shaky cam, but most of the action is still shot from too close up and thus becomes hard to follow. It ends up looking like the studio was trying to hide the more grisly aspects of the action, which is never a good mentality to have while shooting an R-rated flick.
On that note, the movie really cannot seem to make up its mind whether it wants to go all-in on the R-rating or scale things back, to the point where it seems like the movie's most explicit moments were added solely to avoid a lower rating. Prime example? Just three scenes in, we're treated to at least eight exposed breasts. Very next scene? PG-13 sex. A few scenes later, an extra gets disemboweled on camera in vivid detail. The movie never comes close to attempting this level of gore again until the final kills.
The biggest issue with the movie, however, is the pacing. The movie is 133 minutes long, but it will quickly start to feel like a 3+ hour ride. Why is this? Well, because the second act is just too goddamn slow. The solitary confinement sequence is admittedly great... until you realize that it just keeps on going without any development being made.
In contrast, other threads are resolved too fast, causing the runtime to feel rather unjustified. This is the one area where I feel the need to compare to the original, as there, the great deal of planning that went into Henri's escapes is shown in detail. Here, they just sort of... happen, and feel rather contrived. And in a film based on a true story, a lack of this type of detail is kind of the worst that can happen.
Overall, it's a perfectly serviceable film, but with all of its issues with pacing, writing, and content, and the existence of the original which is miles better, I can't recommend it to anyone really looking for a good time.
Hollywood, you need to stop erasing history. I know what you're doing, and it's not going to work. You're not going to get your global socialist dystopia. You're going to fail to destroy Western culture and history.
STOOOOOOOOOOP. I hate you hollywood. I'm so glad the Indie scene exists to counter your evil.
Btw, Papillon is French for 'Butterfly,' and not 'Escape.'