Blazing, metaphorical pageant, over two torturous hours of “man’s inhumanity to man”; director Michael Noer’s, valiant attempt to recreate 1973’s scenario, starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, struggles and sluggishly sinks into a lethargic morass; Charlie Hunnam (“The Lost City of Z”), in McQueen’s role of “Papillon”, doffs close to fifty pounds (aka, Michael Fassbender in 2008’s “Hunger”) as a prisoner of the French Penal Colony, French Guiana, in the 1930’s, falsely accused of murder; consummately perfect for the role, but too much time is devoted to his years in solitary confinement, frustrations of doomed escapes, until, after fourteen years he accomplishes the unfathomable; sighs of relief from viewers drowning in melodramatic sensationalism.
Based on the book “Papillon” (Butterfly), by Henri Charrier, (1906-1973); mighty injections of poetic license, glorifying his travails; published in 1969, it provided major cinematic fodder, resulting in a stunning box office success; Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) depicts Hoffman’s role of “Dega”, wealthy, erudite forger/painter, sidekick of Papillon; stilted, robotic performance, replaced midway through the feature, by his genuine, resilient, steadfast loyalty to Papillon.
“Papillon” resonates with reminders of victimization perpetrated in Biblical times, colonial era, and egregious annihilation of Africa’s population; a reminder of the power of one to reject injustice, indifference, incivility and try in one’s life to, at least once, “exemplify man’s humanity to man.”
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!