*THIS REVIEW IS LONG*
I had the privilege of seeing Papillon at the world premiere screening at TIFF (September 7th, 2017).
Because this movie is sadly going to endure never-ending comparison to the 1973 original, here's my opinion about that one. I actually found it very boring and I didn't feel engaged at all in the character's stories or struggles. I just could not get into it. The friendship between Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman felt so awkward and lacked chemistry to me, and I found the acting very "wooden" throughout most of it. I finished it feeling very confused as to why the movie has always been given such high praise. I realize that it was seen as a very riveting adventure epic back in the 70s, but it's 45 years later so there is nothing wrong with having a fresh/modernized telling of the story. We are in an era of "remakes" after all. Side note: this movie is not actually a remake of the original. Both movies were based on different interpretations of the book.
So what did I think of this new version? I was engaged during every single minute of it! It has something in it for everyone. It is gritty, raw, intense, emotional, dramatic, even humourous at times, and tells a powerful story of male friendship and loyalty in its purest form.
As for Charlie Hunnam (Henri Charrière aka Papillon), well he killed his performance! He did very intense preparation for the role by losing 40 lbs, and he even stayed in the prison cell alone, every night after filming, for 8 days without food or water. He also remained silent during that time. The weight loss and isolation is exactly what he did for his movie The Lost City of Z (8 months prior) so you can imagine how dedicated he is to his craft. He broke himself down, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally, and all of it made for very powerful solitary confinement sequences. (He said in an interview that by the end of filming he'd gotten as close as he wanted to get to feeling true madness.)
He also brought charm, swag, and likability to the character. He just carried the lead so perfectly!
This is the first role of Rami Malek's that I've seen and he did not disappoint! He also delivered a fantastic performance. He played the character Louis Dega in a less "idiotic" way than Dustin Hoffman and was a very strong scene partner for Charlie. They both brought their A game and really fed off each other.
The cinematography and editing were great, and the movie had great flow and pace. I didn't want it to end!
Overall, I think the thing people need to know before pre-judging this movie and assuming it's going to be terrible is that this version delves a lot deeper than the original does, and puts more emphasis on solitary confinement suffering, poor mental health, weight loss, and the male friendship. I think that's why I connected to it and felt a lot of investment in the story, and it's also why I think the performances were way better than Steve McQueen's and Dustin Hoffman's. Yes, I just said that. Just because that movie was considered a classic doesn't mean it can't be beaten. And in my opinion, it was definitely beaten. (Although, I'm sure people will be scared to admit that and feel like they are betraying Steve McQueen's memory..)
Anyway, I can't wait to see it again when it comes to theatres on August 24th. And I really think everyone should have an open mind and give it fair chance. Don't write it off before seeing it. And when you do see it, pretend the original never existed and judge this one own its own merits. Both movies are very different from each other and all 4 actors brought the characters to life in different ways. Ask yourself "is this movie engaging?" and "are the performances good?", instead of just "who did it better?".
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