Papillon ★★

Steve McQueen is paired up with Dustin Hoffman's schlemiel for the ultimate prison buddy comedy, except this is a 2.5 hour drama without any perspective on the events that unfold. Their friendship is the center of it all, a symbiotic relationship that actually poisons them, where they must realize the only way they can each achieve happiness is by finally letting the other go. But that's maybe 25 minutes of the material here, which Schaffner directs with complete indifference—I'd be hard pressed to name one memorable shot that he directed versus he just placed the camera in a serviceable spot.

The film has less structure than events that need to happen, losing any stakes of why we think these characters should escape. Too tangential to work in any authentic way, the film constantly veers into a new event without any shift in our perspective—did we really need to spend 20 minutes in a montage of McQueen living with peaceful natives? The dude eventually shows up as an old man, citing lines like he's supposed to be doing a Clint Eastwood parody, and the narrative returns to their friendship, though the last voiceover plays like a studio enforced joke. The film's troubling anti-semitisim—Hoffman plays Dega like he's Jerry Lewis (who would have made a great comedy with Dean Martin using this script)—goes mostly unremarked in contemporary criticism.

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