Papillon ★★★★½

Papillon prevails as an anecdote of human persistence with some multi-layered character investigations that convincingly docks with a historical jailbreak storyline which glimmers with authenticity. Steve McQueen delivers a captivating performance as safecracker Charrière (aka Papillon) serving a life sentence on Devil's Island and who makes friends with fellow criminal Louis Dega, played by Dustin Hoffman, as the two of them begin their punishments, and almost immediately he's motivated to concoct his escape.

Franklin J. Schaffner does a rather remarkable job with directional duties, including several effective shots which illustrate Papillon’s increasingly distressed psyche, as well as additionally managing to arouse some adventurous performances from the incredible cast. The creative screenplay by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr, based on the nineteen sixty-nine autobiography by the French convict Henri Charrière, generates some evocative seventies-era filmmaking which allows it to stand as a terrific prison movie that features a remarkable transformation of McQueen’s character as night terrors and fantasies take their toll.

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