TIFF 2017 Review: “Papillon”
A remake of the famous 1973 film, Papillon tells the story of two men who become friends in the most unlikely place, a prison camp in French Guiana. Papillon (Charlie Hunnam) a renowned safe thief and Louis Dega (Rami Malek) partner up when Papillon offers protector for Louis in their labor camp. Louis, not accustomed to the rough life he would have to live in prison decides that Papillon is his best bet at survival. The two work to keep each other safe and hopefully escape the hellish island on which they are trapped.
The visuals in the film are breathtaking at times. From the first scene, you are drawn in by the fantastic filmmaking. When Papillon is looking out at the ocean, it is emotionally stirring. Perhaps the best scenes are those when Papillon is in isolation. The filmmaker was able to capture and illustrate the level of isolation and desperation of solitary. Everything from the lighting to the sound editing in these scenes are phenomenal. There are a few scenes that really stand out. Another really great scene is the one with the guillotine. There are a bunch of prisoners on their knees as a man is beheaded. The result of excellent cinematography and set design makes it one of the most memorable of the film.
The most impressive part of Papillon apart from the visuals is the chemistry between Rami and Charlie. Their friendship seems genuine and real with deep emotions. Rami’s performance is full of small nuances and emotion. The scene in which they enter the camp, the look of sheer terror on his face hits so hard. Charlie Hunnam’s stoic but emotionally powerful portrayal of Papillon is superb and couldn’t have been better cast. The supporting cast rounds out the ensemble creating a rich environment.
The makeup as the characters age is phenomenal. We watch Papillon and Louis transform from young men to older gentlemen seamlessly. The isolation scenes with Charlie Hunnam losing extreme amounts of weight are haunting but so perfectly executed.
The story of Papillon is both heartbreaking and emotionally riveting. Two men are thrown together by circumstance form a bond that is inspirational and touching. Papillon is spectacular with perfect casting and phenomenal performances. Finally, a remake that is sure to stand the test of time.