Henry “Papillon” Charriere (Charlie Hunnam) is a safecracker making his name in the Parisian underworld. But when he decides to keep some diamonds from a big score to himself his luck changes. He is framed for a murder and given a life sentence. Even worse for Papillon is that he is being shipped to the Devil’s Island penal colony in French Giana. With no chance at an appeal his only chance at freedom is to escape. On the long boat ride from France to South America he finds an unlikely ally in the form of the forger Louis Dega (Rami Malek). The slight and awkward Dega does not want to escape but rather just survive long enough to have his appeal heard. Papillon agrees to protect Dega in exchange for financing any escape plan Papillon can devise. With Dega’s financial backing Papillon now only has to figure out how to escape from prison no one has been known to escape from on an island surrounded by rivers and ocean, unforgiving jungle and guards who shoot to kill.
Papillon is based on a true story and adapted from the novels “Papillon” and “Banco” written by Charriere himself. This is the second film adaptation of these novels. The other film, also Papillon, is from 1973 stared Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. I have not seen the 1973 version but I did enjoy the story and could be worth viewing to get another directors vision.
The 2018 version is powered but a captivating story of survival and the unlikely friendship of two men thrust together in a harsh environment. Both Hunnam (King Arthur, Pacific Rim) and Malek (Mr. Robot – TV Series, Night at the Museum) give excellent performances. The rest of the cast is okay but these two stars give great performances. Danish director Michael Noer (R, Northwest) does a decent job in the telling of the story visually. There was blood in one scene that was a pink colored and did not look anything like blood and that was a little distracting. The prison seemed realistic and grimy, but also weirdly bright.
Overall I enjoyed this film. I didn’t have any expectations going in and was pleasantly surprised but interesting story. At 2 hours and 13 minutes it does seem a bit too long. This would be a film I would enjoy watching at home and not necessarily something I would spend theater money on.
3 out of 5