Tottenham_Toad’s review published on Letterboxd:
Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon is by the far the most adventurous Biopic created. Simultaneously joining Shawshank and Indiana Jones, makes the film seem almost unbelievable. The film follows the story of papillon who was wrongly imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. His unfortunate state of affairs leads to his inevitable escape, but did come at a severe price. The overall mise-en-scene is fantastic, as we are teleported through a mirage of differing aesthetics. This is put in parallel against the ever altering character arcs. The cinematography is not necessarily challenging, but accentuates the sheer beauty of challenging times.
The plot can at some points be disjointed, the more the film descends into madness. The start is absolutely phenomenal, given it clearly places the story and character introduction. The overall film seems to split up into a variety of different parts where some can be increasingly boring; and the opposite is definitely in order as well. As the film progresses (with the deepening into psychic distress), we are presented with a variety of subliminal themes that create an illusion of trust and belief; yet we are unfortunately grounded by the humanity of the situation. Surprisingly this actually can take away from the film, given you want them to succeed.
Steve McQueen's portrayal of our protagonist is easily his best performance, which is criminally underrated by Hollywood. The hard-boiled nature of the man starts as a somewhat of a ploy, given we later see him in a state of utter distress and paranoia. His dynamic is further enhanced by Dustin Hoffman who plays a similar character to that of Rain Man. Both of their characters cleverly intertwine emotionally, which makes for a tragic finale between the two, that effects the audience sincerely. The rest of the ensemble have rather small cameo roles, but are nonetheless important. each character has a significant impact on the story; and effects the overall outcome well.
In conclusion, Papillon has been more of an adventure, as opposed to film. You are taken on such a journey that one could argue their is a serious disappointment toward the end. Having said this, I have absolutely loved my time with this film, and would more than happily watch it again.