Papillon 2016 ***

Remakes and reboots are a constant part of our cinematic landscape. There’s no point in being precious about things; if you want to see the 1973 version of this story, then you can find it elsewhere. This 2016 version (released in 2019, it’s been on the shelf for a while) is a remake of the Steve McQueen classic with Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur) in the lead. If you’re remaking Steve McQueen films with Charlie Hunnam in the lead role, you are assuredly onto plums , but actually Papillon isn’t bad at all. Fresh in our minds from his Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek is ideal as Louis Dega, the wily fellow convict of Henri Charriere (Hunnam), bending and breaking under the physical and mental cruelties of life in a French Penal colony in the 1930’s. Some of the dialogue is anachronistic (‘Turn that frown upside down…’ spoken in Paris in 1926 ) and most of the best scenes are lifted straight from the original film, but the core of the material (and the original book) is intact; the human spirit cannot be beaten, and no prison can hold a man who never gives up.


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