Director Micheal Noer certain takes a different approach to the real-life story of Henri “Papillon” Carrière than Franklin J. Schaffner did in the magnificent 1973 adaptation, resulting in something considerably more conventional. This story opens in 1931 Paris before Papillon (Charlie Hunnam) is framed for murder and sent to the penal colony in French Guiana, where he befriends—and protects—the mild-mannered counterfeiter Louie Dega (Rami Malek). Noer and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski keep the focus even more firmly on the relationship between Papillon and Dega, condensing huge chunks of the third act to avoid separating them. While the performances by Hunnam and Malek are perfectly solid in trying to stand up to the iconic work of Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, the tone of this version feels pitched much more for conventional action beats—with drawn-out sequences of fights between inmates—instead of a story of resilience and survival. The prologue and epilogue, including the now-seemingly-obligatory closing shot of the real Papillon, frame the narrative as one about a man, rather than as a stark chronicle of a horrifying place and time.
Director: Michael Noer
Producer: Roger Corbi, Joey McFarland, Ram Bergman, David Koplan, Terence Chang, Danny Dimbort, Yan Fisher-Romanovsky and Samuel Hadida
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek, Roland Møller, Nina Senicar, Tommy Flanagan, Eve Hewson, Christopher Fairbank and Brian Vernel