Papillion is a remake of the Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman classic. Yup, I’ve asked the same question too: Why?
Papillion does benefit from the performances of its up-comers: Rami Malek and Charlie Hunnam. Thinking back to the roles they’ve played, the characters are right in their wheelhouse – Malek plays Dega as the brain and Hunnam plays Papi as the brawn.
The movie is based on a highly-disputed memoir of Henri “Papillon” Charrière about his time in the Penal Colony.
Production design provides handsomely staged set pieces. It’s that kind of well budgeted true to life (of sorts) period movie that could pass off as an Oscar contender with the right campaign (Oscars love their great white man in history flicks). Even though its leads haven’t led a blockbuster nor bagged an award in their belt, Malek and Hunnam have a good dynamic here.
The question still remains though. The new casting isn’t compelling enough of a reason for this to exist.
Malek and Hunnam gave it their all, but there’s nothing here to humanize their characters. All I see is a different kind of Elliot and Jax. Papi somehow manages to maintain a neatly trimmed haircut and beard all throughout this movie.
Their version doesn’t provide any new perspective nor more compelling moments to the typical jailbreak tale and the original. The 1973 version has a memorable two-minute scene that the 2018 version couldn’t achieve with its two-hour running time.
In the end, Papillion is more of a reminder that there’s a better original version that already exists.
Papillion is a well-acted but unnecessary remake that offers no compelling reason why it needs to exist.