The accessibility of a remake always depends on the people making it and the necessary ramifications for such a pursuit. The ideal behind “Papillon” which was previous made as a movie in the 1970s starring Steve McQueen & Dustin Hoffman is one of showcase. Most younger generations wouldn’t have had a perception of such a story, especially one that begins in the 1930s. But like most great stories worth telling, the essence borders in the mythic. Charlie Hunnam portrays Papillon. Hunnam definitely has an eye for unusual material with literical overtones which might not necessarily give breathe to his marquee value but definitely marks him differently. He turned down “Fifty Shades Of Grey” right before he was to shoot it. While “King Arthur” didn’t succeed, “The Lost City Of Z” was an interesting choice. The challenge is obvious within “Papillon” for him but like “ A Prayer Before Dawn” from A24 earlier this year, the power of the story might not have been enough to connect with audiences. The aspect of Rami Malek, who now has reached a mainstream perception with his lead role as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”, playing Louis Dega nicely complements Hunnam’s Papillon much like Hoffman to McQueen. Malek brings a quite reserve and nervousness to Dega which again shows his dynamic range as compared to say his work on “Mr. Robot”. The locations are interestingly vague yet specific. It starts out in Paris in the 1930s, all shot on soundstage. Most of the actual prison and interiors seems to be have been shot in Serbia. There is an old world dirtiness to the proceedings while including a sense of history. The essence of Malta is definitely felt in Devil’s Island (who many may recognize from the ending of 1980’s “Popeye”) The themes of escape and abandonment versus a sense of belonging resonate throughout the film. The film does get a bit esoteric during Papillon’s isolation time which is a creative choice but unbalances the progression. In terms of extras, there are a nice selection of deleted scenes though only two specifically give a specific enhancement to the film in terms of detail: one being the escaping band of criminals negotiating with a village of lepers and the other being Louis finding a sense of piece in gardening and caring for animals. Both scenes show a sense of gentleness both in Papi and Louis that maybe gets lost at times in the savagery of the prison. “Papillon” didn’t necessarily need to be made but those involve definitely show their passion in these continuing stories that need to be told.
By Tim Wassberg
The aspect of “The Snowman” is wrapped in the different precipice of a Scandinavian thriller. If it were presented simply as that and not as a major Hollywood thriller, it might have fared better. The texture of the story despite being a graphic novel is simply a little too off kilter in terms of storytelling structure than it needs to be. Thomas Alfredson’s films are effective but, in all frankness, slightly more akin to an art house crowd. Mark Romanek roams in a similar hemisphere, not to say they cannot take on larger fare but their storytelling is more akin to eccentric character fare. Michael Fassbender plays Harry Hole, an intrepid detective with more than a little bit to hide. He seems effervescent and yet removed. A new detective aware of his previous cases played by Rebecca Ferguson shadows him. Whereas Ferguson enjoyed some chemistry with Tom Cruise in the “Mission Impossible” outing, here the interaction seems very droll and that might have to do with the direction. Ultimately for American audiences, no one was aware of the character to begin with so the fanfare behind it was what perplexed US audiences. The movie isn’t awful. It’s sensibility is a bit off. Tinker Taylor, which Alfredson had done previous, had a similar progression in pace. An aside is also the inclusion of Val Kilmer, post op, which is both interesting and disheartening in its presentation also because the use of heavy ADR with a different voice seems to be what has happened. The extras seems to address the idea of Harry Hole being such a hallowed character in Scandinavia along with profiling the author Jo Nesbo. The aspects of the different locations in Norway do highlight a beautiful aspect of the films (there are some beautiful flying over bridges sequences) but there is not a sense of true geography. There is also an anatomy of a scene which takes place on a frozen lake, both capture on site and in studio. “The Snowman” is not bad yet not great and wholly unexceptional.
By Tim Wassberg