"Freedom Brings Hope"
What You Need To Know:
This PAPILLON (2018) remake sticks close to the original, but better. First, it’s shorter, more streamlined. Second, it shows why Papillon was framed for murder and generates more sympathy for his passion for freedom. That said, the remake has a humanist worldview, though its theme of freedom sometimes achieves a spiritual quality. One striking point is whenever Papillon risks severe punishment by helping others, especially his weak friend. Sadly, PAPILLON (2018) contains brief extreme violence, brief nudity, some “f” words, and some strong profanities. Extreme caution is advised.
Based on a true story, PAPILLON (2018) is a dramatized remake of a 1973 movie about a French thief, who was framed for murder and spent years in brutal French penal colonies, including Devil’s Island, but who always dreamed of freedom.
The movie opens in 1931 in Paris with Henri, a safe cracker nicknamed “Butterfly” or Papillon because of a tattoo on his chest, opening a safe. He returns to his gangster boss, the man who gave him the job, and hands him the diamonds he took from the safe. The gangster hands Henri some money for the job. Then, as one of the gangster’s minions beats up a man in the background, Henri assures his boss he didn’t take any diamonds for himself.
Henri’s assurances are shown to be a lie in the very next scene as he and his girlfriend go out for a night on the town. He gives her a diamond necklace and shows her the diamonds he kept for himself. Henri plans to use the diamonds to leave his life of crime and leave Paris with his girlfriend. Unhappily for Henri, a snitch on the street sees Henri hand the necklace to his girlfriend. The next morning, the police come to arrest Henri for the murder of the man who was beaten up in the previous scene.
Cut to several months later, and Henri has been convicted of murder and given a life sentence. After saying goodbye to his girlfriend in prison, Henri is shipped off to the government’s brutal penal colony in French Guyana. On the trip there, Henri befriends Louis Dega, a counterfeiter, who’s hidden a cache of money in a small hollow metal cylinder in his body. Henri agrees to provide protection to Dega if Dega will use some of his money to help Henri escape.
As Henri and Louis try to survive the brutal conditions at the jungle prison, Henri plans an escape. The escape fails, and Henri ends up in solitary confinement for two years. Only his passion for freedom can keep him alive.
This remake’s story stays fairly close to the original movie, which starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, but diverges in a couple important ways. First, it’s shorter. So, it ejects some of the gratuitous scenes that viewers complained about in the original 150-minute movie. Second, the new movie starts with the title character’s backstory, which makes the character more sympathetic because it shows why he was framed for murder unjustly. As a result, the character’s passionate desire for freedom throughout the story becomes more compelling. Thus, the final escape scene in the movie, where Papillon figures out how to escape Devil’s Island, is more moving than the hokey last scene in the original movie, which still has the better score and the better cinematography, however.
That said, the PAPILLON (2018) remake has a humanist worldview, even though its theme of freedom sometimes takes on a spiritual quality. Also, in one scene, Papillon and Dega escape to a native island, where they run into a nun, who suspects something is amiss about their story. The nun coldly urges them to repent and doesn’t express much Christian compassion toward them. Despite this, the movie promotes the value of freedom. In addition, the title character risks his neck several times to help his friend. PAPILLON also contains brief extreme violence, brief nudity, some “f” words, and some strong profanities. So, extreme caution is advised.