Advaith Achanta’s review published on Letterboxd:
Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon is a remarkable examination of a man's undying human spirit. The sprawling story captures the very essense of freedom, and what it means to be free. Isn't existence itself an act of liberation? One of Papillon's escape attempts, ends him up in confinement. During his time there, he eases into a dream where he is charged of being guilty, not of a crime, but of leading a wasteful existence. This strengthens his resolve and gives him a stronger reason for attaining freedom, to leave and have a life better than the one he had lead - a life with purpose.
Steve McQueen's masterclass of a performance is extremely arresting and Dustin Hoffman is exceptional. The stark contrast between these two men is brought out wonderfully and their friendship moulds into the emotional core of the film. The harsh brutality of prison life is captured with surprising amount of realism and boldness, and the breathtaking cinematography genuinely adds a lot.
This isn't just a tale of a simple prison escape, it is so much more than just that. It's an epic that is huge not just in terms of scope but in terms of ideas. It's a masterclass in visual storytelling and a poignant character study unlike anything I have ever seen. I was shook to the core when the film ended, and it isn't an exaggeration to claim that Papillon is the greatest display of human will and spirit in the history of cinema.