In theaters this week from director Michael Noer and Bleeker Street is an epic escape from the man they call “Papillon.”
Henri ‘”Papillon”’ Charriere (Charlie Hunnam) is living the criminal life in France and seemingly enjoying it all with Nenette (Eve Hewson). His high life comes crashing down when he is accused of murder and sent to Devil’s Island.
On the way, he meets Louis Dega (Rami Malek) and offers to be his security from the attack of others. Once at the prison, they are introduced to Warden Barrot (Yorick van Wageningen) who makes it plain that he will tolerate no breaking of the rules. “Papillon” tries to set up the best jobs with the money Dega has. It all seems to be going well until they duo hear from Deputy Gordon. The officer has a history with Dega and paybacks put the two into hard labor.
Around heavy rock, explosive and other angry prisoners, “Papillon” is determined to find a way out. As he sees the extreme brutality of their incarceration and it only pushes him harder. Dega also makes it clear that he wants to leave any way possible but when a moment presents itself, “Papillon” leaves him behind.
Back at the prison, the Warden makes it clear that what Papillion will experience next is not rehabilitation but the insanity of silence.
Hunnam as “Papillon” reaches out to every spectrum of human emotion in the over two-hour span of storytelling. To the crazy years never-a-care years in France, to what he must do to survive the prison, two years of solitary confinement, torture, near starvation and darkness. Every bit of it shows in Hunnam’s portrayal and at times it’s disturbing to witness.
Malek as Dega is clearly a man who has never been in a situation to need protection but quickly realizes it’s “Papillon” that can provide it. The problem is Dega consistently forces others to take up his slack forcing his protector to protect over time.
Wageningen as Barrot is a man determined to run a prison with an iron fist. He is not about to let “Papillon” change any of that. Finding more and more way to try and break him, it is not an easy feat with the strong-willed man.
Other cast include Roland Moller as Celier, Nina Senicar as the Leper, Michael Socha as Julot, Christopher Fairbank as Jean Castili, Ian Beattie as Toussaint, Nick Kent as Brioulet, and Brian Vernel as Guittou.