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Papillon


An adventure classic from 1973, PAPILLON is interesting, but may leave you feeling like a prisoner with its two and a half hour running time.

Steve McQueen is great as Henry "Papillon" Charierre, a safe cracker falsely convicted of murdering a pimp in France. He's committed to a life sentence in the all-time hell hole of prisons, Devil's Island in French Guyana.

He befriends wealthy counterfeiter Louis Dega, well played by Dustin Hoffman behind coke bottle glasses and layers of filth.

The film is leisurely, slowly unveiling everyday life in the prison. It's sheer torture and after awhile it begins to wear thin until McQueen kicks into "Great Escape" mode and makes an escape attempt.

But it's his second try at escaping that truly gets the blood pumping.

Director Franklin J. Schaffner (Planet of the Apes, Patton) knows how to craft a classic, and he's paired again with composer Jerry Goldsmith, driving serious tension in the film's final hour.

Dalton Trumbo (Hawaii, Spartacus) is in fine form as well, adapting the real Henri's book for the screen.

Roger Ebert famously said that just because you watch a prison film, it shouldn't feel like you've served a life sentence when it's over. He's got a point.

There is a brilliant two hour film buried in all the solitary confinement here, but its still a fine film, crafted on a massive scale.

That really is Steve McQueen doing the cliff jump, which is amazing.McQueen and Hoffman famously battled on set, but its a tribute to them both that Henri and Dega's on screen relationship comes across so effectively.

Papillon is a seventies classic that still packs a punch. I'll give it a B-.

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