Monday, August 20, 2018

Unnecessary and so-so remake of the year: Michael Noer/Aaron Guzikowski's PAPILLON

TrustMovies does not in any way want to demean or make seem less awful the experiences of those poor prisoners condemned to life (and often death) in the penal colony of French Guiana, which was composed of several prison "camps," one worse than the next. The common name given for this multi-prison was Devil's Island, any escape from which was thought impossible.

Still, it must be said that sitting through this oft-times interminable two-hours-and-seventeen-minute, "Let's- keep-trying-to-escape-from-this-hell-hole-until-we-go-nuts!" remake of PAPILLON felt like a prison sentence in itself for this particular viewer.

The original Papillon, which arrived on screen back in 1973 -- directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and offering the stunt-casting pairing of that golden boy narcissist Steve McQueen and Oscar-winner/scene stealer, Dustin Hoffman -- was no great shakes in itself, clocking in even longer at two hours and thirty-one minutes.

In the new version , directed by Danish filmmaker Michael Noer (shown at right), with a screenplay by Aaron Guzikowski, which he adapted from both the memoirs by Devil's Island prisoner Henri Charrière and the original screenplay by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple, Jr. the shakes are a good deal less. Just about everything concerning this latest Papillon seems adequate but little more.

This adequacy begins with the film's two stars, both of whom I have greatly enjoyed elsewhere -- Charlie Hunnam (above) in just about everything in which he has ever appeared, and Rami Malek (below), whom I know best from cable TV's fun and fierce Mr. Robot series.

Mr. Hunnam spends his time either playing action hero or showing us his soulful/dour side, while Mr. Maleck handles his weak-little-nerd-with-glasses role as, well, a weak little nerd with glasses. Neither actor has much of a chance to do more, given the one-dimensional screenplay which gets the story told but not much else. (The occasionally soaring musical score, by David Buckley, seems to take the place of acting or writing in terms of pointing up the important moments here.)

The scenery is pretty enough -- seaside, island, jungle stuff -- and the director and screenwriter cram in as much glamour, sex and sin as possible in the first few minutes. Because, after that, it's all prison-plus-escape-attempts, all the time.

The tale itself is indeed one of the greatest "great escape" stories ever told, even in this not-so-hot version. Perhaps the 45 years between the release of the original film and this remake will introduce a bunch more movie-goers to M. Charrière and his semi-fictional story.

Papillon, released by Bleecker Street, opens nationwide this Friday, August 24. I'll post South Florida theaters once they're sent to me. Meanwhile, you can click here and then scroll down and click on FIND THEATERS & TICKETS to view the screening locations nearest you.

No comments: