Papillon (1973)


A true story based on the life of an infamous safe cracker 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.

This is one of those prestige projects that was no doubt made with one eye on the Oscars. An almost unrecognisable McQueen sheds his action hero image to play the harrowed, downtrodden but ultimately unbreakable Papillon and produced probably his best performance. Dustin 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; 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.

Papillon is definitely worth the time to see two Hollywood legends at the top of their game however.


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