Papillon Reviews

Page 1 of 84
Super Reviewer
October 2, 2013
With an excellent performance by Steve McQueen and a stunning cinematography that employs a large depth of field to explore the setting and thus the gravity of the situation, this compelling prison film is more than efficient despite losing some of its credibility in the third act.
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2012
Based on a true story, but taking a number of liberties, this is Franklin J. Schaffner's sprawling portrait of Henri Charriere- a wrongly imprisoned criminal who made his mark on the world for being one of the few people to ever escape from the infamous French penal colony of Devil's Island.

The film follows Charriere, often referred to as Papillon (French for "butterfly"- based on a prominent tattoo of his), as he deals with incarceration. He is an admitted safe cracker, but his life sentence on Devil's Island is for the murdering of a pimp, something he claims he didn't actually do, and was set up.

Life in the prison is downright grueling, but he struggles through it quite admirably. In his struggle to survive, escape (and escape for good), he is joined by Louis Dega, a counterfeiter whose connections could greatly help Papillon in his quest.

Here's the thing about this movie. It's long. 150 minutes. I've seen a number of films of this length, and a number of them that ran even longer. But, this proved to be one of the more difficult films of this length to get through. It's quite slow, is extremely drawn out, and makes you feel like you've done extensive time in the prison as well.

It's a good movie, don't get me wrong. But it really doesn't need to be this long, are at least not this slow and stretched out.

For that reason, I'm cutting the rating down afair amount. The rest of the film is just fine, though the ending kinda peters out. But the writing is decent, the cinematography is terrific, the score from Jerry Goldsmith is quite good, and we get two excellent performances from Steve McQueen as Papillon and Dustin Hoffman as Dega.

I also loved how the film pulls no punches when it comes to showing the horrors of prison life. I know that PG rated films from the 70s were edgier than they are now, but this is easily one of the hardest PG films ever. I doubt it'd get that rating today. Maybe a strong PG-13. The film has clear messages, and delivers them decently, if just in a plodding way.

All in all, I did enjoy this film, but make sure you're in the right frame of mind, and are up for a really lumbering film.
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2012
Tense and scary, Papillon it's with no doubt about it, is one of the most breathtaking escape movies that I ever saw, with a likable duo, form by McQueen and Hoffman.
Super Reviewer
March 23, 2007
A true story based on the life of an infamous safecracker played by Steve McQueen, who is sent to a notorious French prison colony and forms a close bond with fellow internee Dustin Hoffman as he plans his escape. Papillon is one of those prestige films that was probably made with one eye on the Oscars. An almost unrecognisable McQueen sheds his action hero image to play the harrowed, down trodden but ultimately unbreakable Papillon and produced probably his best performance. Hoffman adds a suitably expert performance as his physically weak but wily sidekick and from a technical point of view, there's not much that can be faulted. My only reservation is in the fact that because we knew little about these characters and who they were before they reached their prison, I found it difficult to form an emotional attachment to them; sure I was harrowed and inspired on cue, but I never really forgot that I was watching a film complete with all the usual elements you'd expect. Definitely worth it to see two Hollywood legends at the top of their game though.
Super Reviewer
March 22, 2009
I was drawn towards it because of its high IMDb rating and all the more because it's based on real life events. However, the length of the movie is too long for its own good. It's interesting to wait and watch the strategy the protagonists adopt for their escape and whether they succeed or not, but it drags the scenes needlessly time and again. The movie is executed in such a way that you begin to yawn at regular intervals. It could have been way better with appropriate editing. However, Dustin Hoffman gives an excellent performance along with Steve McQueen.
Super Reviewer
June 5, 2008
I was haunted while watching Papillon. When Papillon (Steve McQueen) is stuck in solitary confinement, I kept thinking back to the Cooler King from The Great Escape. Shockingly, I discovered that Nazi were more humane than French colonists in Guyana. Weird, huh?

Papillon follows the prison term of the title character, nicknamed for the butterfly tattoo on his chest. Sent to Devils Island for life Papillon strikes a deal with Dega (Dustin Hoffman) that in exchange for protection Dega will finance an escape attempt. Dega is loaded and carries his money in a new fangled prison wallet called his ass. Talk about money in need of laundering. The film continues to be one screw job after another as the innocent Papillon tries to get off of Devil's Island.

You can see the complaints some people may have with this film. Sure McQueen and Hoffman have little chemistry, but on screen it's basically a business arrangement that turns into a strained friendship because of all the failures the pair go through. A massive film directed by Patton's Franklin Schaffner Papillon does drag in some points, particularly the solitary scenes. These could be considered too much, but McQueen really expresses the role of the anti-Cooler King, ready to break and eating insects in the dark. It's too long because any kind of confinement is too long.

Really, Papillon isn't the Great Escape II. It's more of the breaking of men in the middle of the jungle. I can't forget another piece of casting brilliance with Vic Tayback playing a French guard. Dingy!
Super Reviewer
½ September 30, 2007
I saw this as a kid, I was brought up on classic cinema, and it was amazing, it drew me in and haunted me, it makes you wanna know more about the story, Charriere and Devil Island. Based on fact, makes it even more scary and fantastic, the story is simple, escaping from Devils Island. The violence is ultra nasty and makes you sweat, the situations are tense and bring you to the edge of your seat, and the locations, yet beautiful, are deadly and full of surprises. The life of Papillon is brutal and makes you learn to trust no one. Rats, pay offs and pay back are all the order of the day in this harrowing tale. The flick looks epic, the casting is classic and its not too predictable. It will stay with you long after it ends.
Super Reviewer
June 6, 2007
McQueen and Hoffman are marvelous in this sad but in the end exciting and uplifting prison drama.
Super Reviewer
May 30, 2007
The grimmest depiction of prison life that makes the likes of Shawshank and The Green Mile seem overly contrived and Hollywood. Because we are given very little information about the prisoners' lives prior to being dumped in Guyana, it is imperative for Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman to give strong performances to make up for it. And they do. I think this is what it means to disappear into a character. Overlong, though.
Super Reviewer
September 19, 2008
There's something about prison/war camp movies that just gets me all sucked in to the narrative. Perhaps it's the manliness of it all and the male bonding handled in the most masculine of ways. Like the Great Escape this is a tale of hope and like The Shawshank Redemption this is a tale of...wait for it...redemption. McQueen is obviously innocent, otherwise whom would we place our faith with? He's aided by geeky Hoffman and the two make quite a pair. They act off each spectacularly and never try and outdo eacy other. Hoffman feeling quite at ease with a supporting role. He literally supports McQueen at one point, as a deal between the two turns into something more. Real friendship, where risking their lives and going out on a limb is the norm. The two are inseparable. The scene where the two try and work out how to deal with a crocodile is hilariously endearing. The two actors obviously gelled as well off screen as they do on. The film has some excellent escape attempts but the photography here is mainly used to capture nature. Crabs, bugs, bats all make symbolic appearances with the jungle and soon rearing it's ugly head as the true captor of our protagonists. See it for the acting, stay for the gripping story. Moving, cruel and very VERY well executed.
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2007
Awesome. One of the better escape movies out there for sure. Very interesting situations (for once it's not about vietnam or WW2). Also pretty sad how much crap happens to them.
Super Reviewer
October 18, 2006
A bit drawn out, but an extremely enjoyable film. Performance by both were great, but Steve McQueen's role was pretty outstanding. For the age of this film, they dealt with some of the topics really well and the make up for Steve McQueen though his punishment, is a pretty amazing transformation.

VERDICT: One of the best older films I've seen, definitely recommend it.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2007
I saw this for the first time in June 2007 on the History channel. The movie is interesting, but the last half is not as interesting as the first. Steve McQueen's makeup is pretty spectacular. I can't imagine solitary confinement for all those years.
Super Reviewer
June 15, 2007
The three stars are for Dustin Hoffman, effectively: this is one of his most interesting and enduring characters, for sure, and without him, the film is barely worth watching. This movie has some great shots, but the dialogue is pretty rough, and I just can't seem to care how reckless, dedicated or tough Steve McQueen's character is - he just seems so unfeeling the whole time that it's hard to really get behind any of his escape plots.
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2007
Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in the roles of their careers. And a grand classic of the 1970's
Super Reviewer
August 26, 2012
A great prison escape movie, Papillon features terrific performances, a thorough and smart script, and a gritty and unflinching look at penal colonies. Steve McQeen anchors every scene with his gripping and nuanced portrayal, a character we see grow, but with an uncanny resilience that only McQueen can muster. He is also matched well by Hoffman, who injects his role with humor and despair. The film does an excellent job of going all-in, in that we see every aspect of the colony, and the unrelenting horror. My only real issue with the film is the overly lethargic pace in parts, and perhaps a bit of a lack of focus towards the end, tending to meander too much on certain threads. Overall, a very strong and memorable classic.

4/5 Stars
Super Reviewer
½ August 24, 2010
To younger film enthusiasts, this film might start out slow. No, it does not have hundreds of millions of dollars in special effects, but even someone the casually spectator watching this film gets wrapped up the characters' struggle survive and endure inhumane punishment.
Super Reviewer
August 24, 2011
"Papillon" is a solidly acted film that focuses on two men and a few others they meet while in prison as they try and escape from an island prison in which they are against not only the guards, but mother nature as well. Dustin Hoffman's character Louis Dega is reluctant to try and leave and the first and third time that Steve McQueen's character Charriere tries to escape he stays put. The second outing he is forced, due to circumstances making him be involved and ultimately preventing Charriere from being shot, leads to him being captured and penalized enough to not try again. Charriere however is much more resilient and never gives up in his attempts to escape, even after a 2 year and 5 year bid of solitude slapped on his previous sentence. At the end he finally manages to escape, having nothing to fear except being imprisoned any longer, and rides the current to salvation. The film is a hard hitting drama and one that is brilliantly acted and captured by the film makers. You feel for the guys, especially Steve McQueen's Charriere because he was falsely accused and thus shouldn't be in prison at all. While the film sits right at 2 1/2 hours in running time it is evenly paced and visually arresting, making the time go by rather fast.
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2006
Authentic, gritty film that makes good use of Hoffman and McQueen's acting talents. The cinematography is fantastic and the editing is just as impressive. One excellent movie that is often overlooked.
Page 1 of 84