Nerdlocker Movie Review: Papillon


Undeterred by challenging roles, Charlie Hunnam flexes his acting muscles yet again in Papillon. By his side, Rami Malek helps propel a harrowing true story of innocence ignored and determination of spirit through even the most trying of situations. A journey of survival can be no bigger than a confined cell with nothing but lingering doubt and thoughts plaguing your every moment. Hunnam as Papillon endures about as much physical and mental torture as any man before him. More than anything it is the promise of freedom as it waits tauntingly just beyond the unforgiving jungle and turbulent ocean that truly tests the strength of every man that finds themselves imprisoned on the penal colony of Devil’s Island.

As if being imprisoned wasn’t awful enough Papillon is an innocent man framed for a crime he could not have possibly committed. While this is an infuriating thought clinging to everything he does he manages to turn his wronged fate into motivation to escape by any means. It would seem however that no matter which path he chooses it is blocked by unforgiving nature, a sadistic warden or his numerous prison guards. All of them want to see him rot for the rest of his life; he has other plans.

It becomes apparent quite quickly that money is the greatest asset these prisoners can possess. Unfortunately for them money is extremely scarce in a prison and any money you may have will likely be stolen even at the expense of your life. It’s no secret in this prison that Rami Malek’s character Louis is a millionaire which only puts a price on his head from the moment he steps foot on the island. Hunnam plays the brutish type bent on keeping Luis alive; Luis survives, Papillon survives.

Hunnam’s performance is one of both physical and mental strain as he balances moments of brutality and moments of tenderness toward a man he once didn’t understand but learns to care for deeply, beyond any deal made between the two men. Not only must he protect Luis, a gentile soul unfamiliar with violent men, Papillon must protect his own body but more at threat is his sanity as the walls of his imprisonment only grow smaller closing in on his ability to think straight and keep his true north. He wants to escape as a new man with a new outlook on life but if the warden has any say there will be nothing left but a mindless, obedient animal filled with rage brimming just beneath the surface.

Rami Malek is on a wave of one tremendous performance after another and his latest as Luis is no different. A more timid, brittle man than Hunnam’s character, Malek delivers a performance that is relatable as the everyman dropped into hell and as a man that has violent tendencies if only provoked. He may not know those tendencies are there but when his back is against the wall in a moment of pure animalistic behavior he strikes with a sudden wave of pain that has been building for years behind the bars that hold him. Together these two talented thespians create a believable friendship molded in the most horrific moments of either man’s life. This is a tale of endurance, of the mind, body, soul, and of their friendship.

Papillon is a remake yes but this updated version is no less compelling because the story behind it is nothing short of enthralling and harrowing. With spectacular performances captured through gorgeous cinematography and numerous settings each more breathtaking than the last, Papillon is a journey of mind and body lasting longer and going further than ever thought possible. This is most certainly one not to miss.

Rated R For: violence including bloody images, language, nudity, and some sexual material
Runtime: 133 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek, Roland Møller, Yorick van Wageningen
Directed By: Michael Noer

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: Yes

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard