Papillon did something that’s very difficult – it made me root for its lead character right from the very start. Unfortunately, it was only because I so desperately wanted him to successfully escape so the movie could be over.
This film was missing what I think is the most important prison escape movie element: the brilliant, strategic, mastermind lead character. Papillon isn’t a mastermind, he’s a moron. Here are some – but, alas, not all – of the reasons why:
- He attempts to break out with only three years left of his sentence. When he fails, he’s faced with an additional five years in solitary. Moronic.
- He trusts a bunch of do-good nuns not to turn him over to the law. Damn moronic.
- Just when he’s settling down with some topless tribeswoman, he pisses off the chief and they all leave. Dry spell moronic.
- He smokes a cigar straight out of a fucking dirty leper’s mouth. Communicable moronic.
- He attacks a guard in order to protect Dustin Hoffman – but prison rules clearly state that your own safety is top priority. Drop the soap moronic.
Some stories, regardless of the truth behind them, don’t need to be told. Papillon is, unfortunately, a story that probably didn’t need or deserve a big screen treatment. It’s no more interesting or moving than an urban legend, and it fails at creating even the smallest amount of empathy for either of its leads.