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Parents' Guide to


By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Brutal violence, strong language in prison remake.

Movie R 2018 133 minutes
Papillon Poster Image

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Kids say (2 ):

While it may fall under the category of "remakes no one was clamoring for," this new film is solidly made -- while feeling simultaneously more brutal and more scrubbed. Hunnam delivers his best performance to date as the titular Papillon, the indomitable prisoner with a superhuman will to survive. Danish director Michael Noer vividly conveys the movie's time and place and wisely casts charismatic collaborator Roland Moller in a key role as a fellow prisoner.

Yet, while it steps up the bloody violence from the original, the new film also feels sanitized in a way. The remake is about two things: Papillon's unbreakable will, and his friendship with Louis. So was the original, with both films exaggerating a less-significant relationship from the book to craft that relationship. But the remake goes farther with the friendship, and Hunnam's take on Henri is more like Captain America than the Cooler King (McQueen's iconic Great Escape character). There's vulnerability in his long stretches of solitary confinement, but not that much. McQueen's take was less self-sacrificing, less shiny; his rebellion was wisely not directly in his captors' faces, unlike Hunnam's. That makes the new film feel less like an underdog story than a superhero tale, which reduces the tension. There's also a subtly homophobic vibe in the remake that really comes out in comparison to the original. Still, comparisons aside, Noer's film is visceral and tactile, and the story of a man who simply won't allow himself to be broken is certainly relatable. Papillon's miraculous physical and mental survival still make for fascinating cinema.

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