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TIFF 2017 Review: ‘Papillon’ (2017) ★★★★★


I think what is important to remember about every film you see based on a book but was made decades ago is that, my dear friend, it’s not a remake. Yes, it’s absolutely not. I was told many times to avoid watching Michael Noer’s new feature film based on Henri Charriere’s memoir of his imprisonment and his repeated escapes from the notorious penal colony of Devil’s Island. Having an open mind and not thinking of an older version played by Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman helped a lot, as it allowed me to enjoy the film like it was my first time seeing it ever.

Henri Charriere, naval veteran who turned into a criminal is framed for murder he did not commit, and found guilty by all accounts, and as a result of it was sentenced to life in prison of French Guiana, back in 1931. Having an ally in the face of Louis Dega, the man tries to escape the prison quite a few times. But before he makes an attempt, Papillon and Dega develop a special friendship that allows them to unite and rely only on each other.

With two hours of running time, Noer’s film was an interesting journey for any viewer to make. Sometimes funny, sad and even cruel, the world of prison still appears fascinating as the scenery and cinematography quietly transports the audience through the silver screen right to the era where everything has occurred. The story development, excellent performance of Rami Malek and Charlie Hunnam as Papillon allowed the film to turn into a remarkable experience, we once again, as a viewer revisit the history the way it was – but this time, with more color and ambition, which was very important for the film to live long after it ends.

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