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Movie Review: “Papillon”

Based on the book by Henri Charriere.

Version: 1973; starring Steve McQueen; Duston Hoffman

Genre: adventure; survival; based on true story.

Plot Summary: In the 1930’s, two convicted criminals are sentenced to life imprisonment and arrive in the French penal colony of Guiana where they soon forge an enduring friendship through the many years, adventures, and tortures to follow.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

This was a story I did not know I needed to know about.  I had never heard of the book, or of the movie, and it was not until writing this review that I learned of a new remake starring Charlie Hunnam in McQueen’s role.  There’s always some room for tales of imprisonment and escape in my strange soul, so when I happened across this older movie it did not wait long on my watch list.

This is nearly a three hour film.  The pace is slow and mostly quiet, as to be expected when your hero spends 5+ years in solitary confinement.  Don’t worry, it’s not as painstaking to watch as it sounds!  Henri Charriere, wrongly accused (as far as we trust our main character’s POV) of murder spends all of his time from the very first minute scheming his way out of captivity.  We, the viewers, are right along with him each step of the way.  The time and detail it takes for these real life persons to plan an escape which their very life and sanity depend on is suspenseful and has us glued to the story instead of watching the clock.  Our emotions are invested into the very human characters we watch who try so hard to live.

If you’re looking for a clean flick, this isn’t going to be for you.  Death, starvation, and madness are the order of the day.  Men are killed as a matter of course, and sometimes there is quite grisly detail.  In an atmosphere such as this, it would be unrealistic for the script not to include swear words.  So of course, that factors liberally into the movie as well. One prison guard has a hankering after one of the prisoners and wants to sexually abuse him.  The prisoner appears to go along with it for a time, but only as a means of eventual escape.  It is common for the inmates to smuggle their belongings in places where the sun doesn’t shine.  If I remember correctly, there may have been a brief scene of backside (prison context) nudity.  What actually bothered me more than that was an island setting in which all the tribeswomen wore nothing at all and we see full frontal nudity.

Despite all of this, I came away doing a lot of thinking about this movie.  The thing that stood out the most to me was comparing the two main characters: Henry Charriere (or, “Papillon”) and his friend Louis Dega who was sent to Guiana for forgery.  Their friendship is begun for survival’s sake.  Papillon can easily handle himself in any situation, with quick wits to boot but not much clout among other prisoners or guards.  Dega on the other hand, is physically undersized with round glasses that couldn’t possibly get any thicker which produces a wrong-end-of-the-magnifying-glass-effect when we look at him.  However, his secret weapon is literally the stash of cash he sits on and he is able to bribe for opportunities.  In one of the most touching parts of the story, Papillon risks his life to protect Dega when he is being beaten.  This action lands him longlasting consequences.  It brings Dega to tears to think that an innocent man would be willing to put his life in jeopardy for him, who is justly convicted of his crime.  It made me think of Jesus, the innocent lamb who was slain for us, the real sinners.  It was an eloquent portrait of biblical truth.

Eventually, through many trials and hardships, the two men are brought together once again where they have to face a decision: remain in captivity, or attempt escape (quite possibly ending in death or worse, recapture).  It is rather pitiful the situation they are in, yet in some ways it could have been worse.  Will Papillon be content to live the remainder of his years on Devil’s Island where he could live in comparative peace?  Or will he convince Dega to risk the dangers of escape and perhaps be able to attain true freedom once again?

SPOILER ALERT:  Papillon never once abandons his idea of the pursuit of freedom.  I believe giving up his busy mind over this matter would have consigned him to insanity.  Dega on the other hand, was never strong of body or mind.  He found a little piece of joy right where he was and made it into his own.  He had nothing left to go back to.  Was one view right and the other wrong?  I don’t think so.  Two different temperaments, different personalities, with different limitations.   Each did what they could with what they had and what they were made for.  This, of course, is taking the question of guilt out of the equation.  END OF SPOILER.

I know this film will not be for everyone.  But I found some redeeming aspects of it that I encourage anyone so inclined to give it a try.  I am looking forward to seeing a newer version, but Steve McQueen was very good in his role, and Dustin Hoffman provided some comic relief.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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2018 Audio Theatre Central Seneca Awards Night

The Audio Theatre Central Seneca Awards were held last night, and by my good fortune I just happened to stumble across it and stayed up late listening to it live.  (You can view my post about the nominations here.)  Although I missed more quality productions from Focus on the Family Radio Theatre in recent years, and am missing Aaron Fuller’s influence on the G.A. Henty Heirloom Audio Production, the new show The Adventum (which won Best Long Form Audio Drama) sounds very interesting.  I also loved the emphasis put on the connection between old-time radio dramas and today’s auditory adventures.  You can click here to listen to the awards, and to find out more about family-friendly God-honoring drama!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2019 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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2018 ATC Seneca Awards

Like audio dramas?  Audio Theatre Central has announced the nominees for the 2018 Seneca Awards, which recognizes the best in the audio drama production industry.  Winners will be announced in July.  As a plus, these are all family friendly stories, so they can be enjoyed on those long summer vacation road trips!  There are so many exciting things happening in the audio world.  I’m really looking forward to The Adventum!  Posts to as many trailers as I can find are below:

Operation Mosul (The Brinkman Adventures)

The Treasure of the Secret Cove (Lamplighter Theatre)

The Adventum, Vol. 1

Black Rock (The Shadow Remake)

Escape from the Eagle’s Nest (Lamplighter Theatre)

Come and See

Heirloom Audio Productions have also come out with St. Bartholomew’s Eve and For the Temple, but unfortunately I could not find trailers for those.  And Lamplighter Theatre’s quality seems to be improving every year!

 

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2019 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Random Books Post: Yard Sale Season Begins

Hi, there~ Yard Sale Season has officially begun but I haven’t had the opportunity to get out there as much as I have the past couple of years.  Even when I have I’ve mostly found cool craft items.  Still, I have found a couple books here and there which I will post below:

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2019 in Book Shopping

 

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Movie Review: “The Big Four”

Based on the book by Agatha Christie. [see my book review here]

Version: 2013; starring David Suchet.

Genre: mystery

Plot Summary: [from IMDb] As the threat of world war looms large, Poirot seeks the help of friends both old and new when he is pitted against a dangerous group of dissidents responsible for a series of violent murders.

My Review: When I read Agatha Christie’s The Big Four, it wasn’t the best mystery I’d read by her; but it wasn’t the worst either.  I guess I’d rate it around midling.  I think the thing that turned me off from rating it higher was probably the ending which did not seem very believable to me.  I didn’t really see how this story would be filmable.

When I watched the movie version starring David Suchet I could see where they took liberties with the story, and I didn’t really blame them.  It needed to be within the realms of the believable and not feel like a dated story line.  Many of the same characters were kept, but the motives and ending were changed.  I still can’t say it’s one of my favorites, though.

I don’t remember alarming content material here, however since it deals with murder and the regular mayhem I would say there is some moderate worries for children.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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More Audio Dramas- Last of the Mohicans!

There’s more free audio drama immersion to be had right now on BBC Radio 4 with James Fenimoore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans”!  I’m looking forward to hitting play on this one.  Reading the book can be a struggle, and the movie is very much changed from the book.  But the story is such an evocative tale set in the early days of American history and an exciting one to boot!.  Plan to enjoy listening soon because this is only available for a limited time.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Father Brown stories – BBC Audio Drama

In the mood for some cozy mysteries?  I discovered Father Brown is playing on BBC Radio 4 and wanted to post a notice.  I haven’t listened to them yet, but I am hoping they are much more intellectually stimulating and truer to the books than the recent BBC tv series (I was disappointed with those).  These only play for a limited time, so make sure you act on it soon!  Ta-ta!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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