Check out various snippets below from a variety of reviews of Papillon after it’s debut at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Admittedly they don’t fair so well with some critics but still worth checking out.
Variety: In almost every respect, Danish director Michael Noer’s remake — which as “inspired by true events” credits equally real-life protagonist Henri Charrière’s memoirs and the earlier screenplay as sources — is a humbler enterprise, although still ambitious and impressive enough. New stars Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek are neither burdened nor burnished by already-iconic star status; this brisker telling is less pretentious if also less distinctive as large-scale filmmaking. In the end, what matters most is that the principally unchanged story of survival in colonial French Guiana remains a compelling one, no less when played as a relatively straightforward action-suspense saga rather than as a gargantuan allegory about the Indomitable Human Spirit.[…]
Nonetheless, Hunnam (though better in his other 2017 historical epic, “Lost City of Z”) is impressive, particularly during the physical deterioration of the long isolation setpiece. Malek is solid, but Dega could have used more slyness or some other distinguishing characteristic.
Hollywood Reporter: At best, Hunnam and Malek showcase their intense physical dedication, while generating a few chuckles amid all the hardship. They don’t really have the allure of McQueen and Hoffmann on screen — who ever could? — yet they’re an enjoyable combo in a movie that, despite a two-hour-plus running time, ultimately feels way more rushed than mastered (including a considerable amount of dubbing) and never recreates the harrowing experience of either the original or of the colonies in general. […]
The Film Stage: It seems like such a small alteration and yet it speaks volumes for Noer and Guzikowski as storytellers. They change who says certain lines, shift motivations, and oftentimes streamline ordeals that came across as overly convoluted in the original. Those endeavors that took multiple starts and stops to either succeed or fail in Schaffner’s version have all the bloat cut out so the emotion (elation or sorrow) can shine above this notion of “heroics.” This is the difference between a 1970s Hollywood vehicle starring Steve McQueen as a badass adonis and a 2017 cinematic landscape able to embrace nuance and compassion despite the testosterone flowing onscreen with a virtually all-male cast. Empathy without a gruff “I would kill you myself” is no longer taboo. It’s a sign of strength.[…]
Hunnam lends a welcome tinge of wry sarcastic humor to the performance—as he’s known to do—that endears him to us so he can be seen as more than a cliché.