Movie Review: Papillon


The movie “Papillon” is a remake of the 1973 classic film that starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. The most important thing to know about this story is that it is not only true but it also demonstrated the inhumane cruelty that existed in France in 1931. It is correct to understand that any one who commits murder or any kind of violent crime do not deserve a country club when they are sent away to prison, but the conditions and the administration of prisoners in French Guiana were so bad its a miracle anyone survived there. Most amazing is the main character in this movie, played very well by Charlie Hunnam, not only survived living with the fact that he was innocent and framed for murder, but also spent 7 years in solitary confinement for trying to escape twice. Very often this confinement consisted of total darkness. Unlike other bad recent remakes of classic films like Ben Hur, released in 2016, this movie stands on its own as different enough that its not just a scene by scene retread of the original film.

I was also impressed with the friendship that developed between Papillon and another man who committed a while collar crime and had no business being in a prison like this, played by Rami Malek. On several occassions Papillon risked both his life and freedom to save his friend.

As far as the story I was most impressed with the incredible resolve of Papillon who despite facing more years of solitary confinement, kept trying to escape his extreme injustice of being incarcerated for no reason because he was framed for murder. This story is first and foremost about “mans inhumanity to man” when it comes to running a prison. While prison reform has seen some improvements over many years, it is still a very long way to be what it should be.

The ending of Papillon for those who have not seen the original is so unlikely that many would not believe it unless it was a true story. At the end of the movie talks about the book Papillon that was a best seller when it was released in 1969 and sold over 13 million copies. I have included a link to this book on this web site.

Unlike so many other remakes, Papillon was well done and good enough to receive a strong recommendation.

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