• Papillon (Universal Pictures) Blu-Ray Review

    Released By: Universal Pictures
    Released On: November 6, 2018.
    Director: Michael Noer
    Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek, Yorick van Wageningen, Roland Moller, Tommy Flanagan
    Year: 2017

    Papillon - Movie Review:

    Far too often, while watching a film involving the teamwork of two leading actors, I'll ask myself, "Why do I care about these people? If they died right now, would I have any reaction to it?" Character development is a big factor for me, especially if I'm expected to invest over two hours of my time following the exploits of said characters. And if even one of those leads isn't pulling his weight, either because of acting skill or lack of material, it's a dealbreaker unless there's some radical shit going on around them that makes up for it.

    In the case of Papillon, the viewer should be invested in the characters. Based on Henri Charrière's somewhat non-fiction autobiographical book of the same name (and the lesser-known followup), as well as the classic 1973 film of the same name, this version also tells the story of Charrière's (Charlie Hunnam) early career as a thief and skilled safe-cracker, and subsequent frame-up for murder in pre-war Paris, resulting in his incarceration in the brutal penal colony of French Guiana. With no intention of breaking rocks in the hot sun for a crime he did not commit, the man nicknamed Papillon (French for butterfly; one of which was tattooed on Henri's chest) seeks the assistance of fellow prisoner Louis Dega (Rami Malek), a white-collar forger with a rectum full of smuggled francs.

    With Dega housing a sizable rectal cash repository, Papillon figures that financing an escape is a no-brainer, in spite of the captain of the guard warning him that anyone surviving an escape attempt will do hard time in solitary and face an even worse sentence on the terrifyingly-named Devil's Island. Dega makes for a willing partner when he realizes that Papillon wields the kind of strength and respect that can stop him from getting passed around the larger prisoners like a human hand towel, and quickly makes a messy withdrawal of funds to further the plan. Papillon chooses poorly, however, putting his trust and colonic cash into the hands of a pimp, who wastes no time in getting Henri busted. It's off to solitary for the iron butterfly, a long stint made even worse when Papillon refuses to give up the names of his co-conspirators.

    The worst is yet to come, however, when Papillon and Dega make good on their escape, only to be caught again and sent to Devil's Island; a remote and barren place with a hell of an elevation above the surrounding sea level prohibiting escape. But in what seems like 14 seconds, Papillon discovers scientific method as it relates to tides, another shot at life in the free world.

    Over two damned hours; that's how long we spend with Hunnam. We see his life as a successful criminal stripped away by a false judgement for a crime he is innocent of, and we witness this man condemned to a lifetime of extreme labour under brutal conditions. We are there as his patsy Dega becomes a trusted confidante and partner, and their failed, yet heartfelt attempt to write the wrongs done to them falls to pieces. Papillon's descent into madness in solitary, and his unwavering loyalty follow, and then his reunion with Dega...everything is on display here, and it should all get us right in the damned feels.

    And then, it doesn't. Because nobody cares about Henri. Hunnam gets to swagger around for a few minutes at the beginning of the film, sure, and then he gets to show off his physique as he's thrust into incarceration, but he's a blank stare. Likewise, the arrival of Malek (who I normally quite like) evokes no emotion or sentiment; it's obvious what he should be going for, but it's just not there. The trials and tribulations of each are meaningless. Papillon (the film) looks good; the aesthetic is modern, yet it does have a successful period drama atmosphere; but there's no substance, and at the end, we're stuck with 135 minutes of, "God, is this still on?". As we take into account all of the controversy that's come up since the 1973 film about how much of Charrière's story is actually real, a better question might be, "Was this remake really necessary?". Probably not.

    Papillon - Blu-Ray Review:

    As mentioned, Papillon looks good on this AVC-encoded blu-ray (with HD download) from Universal Pictures. Dark scenes are well-rendered, colours are decent, blacks are strong, and the picture doesn't suffer from compression issues, with the 2.40:1 aspect ratio capturing some of the more scenic shots nicely. Audio responsibilities are handled by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that carries the dialogue and sound effects nicely and tastefully throughout, with surrounds and sub opening up when required to good effect. English Subs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, as well as Spanish subtitles are available, and so is Descriptive Video Service in English.

    Extras consist of 13 deleted scenes (30:44, HD), meaning that this film would have come out to almost 3 hours in uncut form. Frightening.

    Papillon - The Final Word:

    I suppose that fans of Charlie Hunnam, who enjoyed watching him strut around with his shirt off and fake tattoos in Sons Of Anarchy, may enjoy watching him strut around with his shirt off and fake tattoos in Papillon. I'm hard-pressed to think of any other reason that anyone would want to watch this dull and dreary remake.

    Click on the images below for full sized Papillon Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. paul h.'s Avatar
      paul h. -
      I love the original, but this sounds completely stupid and unnecessary.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I would agree with that