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Papillon

Year: 1973
Director: Franklin J Schaffner
Cast: Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman
Mostly regarded as a modern classic, its classic status was lost on me for three reasons; when hero Papillon (McQueen) is berating friend Louis Dega (Hoffman) for coming along on the escape effort with a broken leg, his face screwed up, spitting vernacular like a little kid trying to be angry in a primary school play; the completely redundant and final scenes when they're both old men and - even as a free settler - Papillon is still determined to escape; and the old Hollywood chestnut of portraying foreigners and not even making a throwaway gesture to them being so, but having them speak plain Ameringlish.

Where it does work is in the scenes of Papillon's solitary confinement, the descent into madness and how that sort of treatment undoes a man despite his best laid plans to combat it (pacing back and forth, etc).

Sentenced to a long stretch on a French Guiyanan penal island, an accused murderer who only seems to be an enigma because of the butterfly tattooed on his chest is determined to escape, thwarted no less than three times but never giving up over the years.

The drama and tensions are achieved in the penultimate escape plan, when Papillon, Dega and a young companion make it to the coast of Honduras.

There, the movie runs completely out of steam as we're treated to a montage of Papillon living like a prince among a native tribe on the beach. He eventually leaves (God knows why) and makes his way to an inland convent where the mother superior rats him out and he goes back to prison. He spends a further five years in prison before looking Dega up again - both of them seemingly much older men and the latter having babbled himself apparently insane - trying to convince him to throw himself into a rocky bay to float away in a scene that's dreadfully uninspiring and comical for a climax.

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