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 integration of global cinema is finding the right balance that appeals to all corners while still remaining edgy. For most places, this involves moving towards the center and not necessarily to the darker elements. Director Peter Berg seems in his movies with Mark Wahlberg (who also produces) to find that interesting mix between personal story, political underpinings and essential practical action. Their previous collaboration: “Patriot’s Day” was more specifically encompassed with a certain idea of an American style response within the Boston Massacre in a town that is very close to Wahlberg’s heart. But like Berg’s “The Kingdom”, what their latest “Mile 22” does is push the idea of the edge of the zone while still embracing new ideas. While Wahlberg is the marquee star here, it is the breakneck pace of the film which allows not just him but the other actors, especially Iko Uwais, the star of the breakout Indonesian action film “The Raid” to shine. The fact that this film can operate on that level as well as the film Wahlberg is trying to make is admirable. Some of the facts get muddled since the script is somewhat scitzophrenic and trying to move too fast but the action is just as frenetic and almost overtakes what Berg is trying to do. At its core, “Mile 22” is a stopwatch action film; point A to point B involving the need to deliver an asset. However using different places and streets to its advantage is key. As shown in the bonus features (and in its initial release) part of the big street scenes were shot in Bogota, Colombia. Having been to the city for a wedding, there is so much possibility to its back and main streets (although it is set to mirror at Southeastern Asian fictional city). Bogota is used to a point but also as a angle to bring more film production despite the country having a somewhat checkered tourism past from decade to decade. The stunts are interesting but most of the material on the Blu Ray was originally created as publicity material for the original release so no new material is here though what is included should be fodder for any regular cinema collector. Another stand out is Lauren Cowan, who brings to mind a 2018 version of Bridget Moynahan (who starred with Al Pacino and Colin Farrell in “The Recruit” in the early 2000s). This reviewer has not experienced her screen presence as Maggie in “The Walking Dead” but her steel here hopefully bodes for more focal elements on the big screen as well. “Mile 22” is an expert exercise by two filmmakers wanting to push the boundaries but also understanding the need for entertainment, however hard nosed, within the audience.
By Tim Wassberg