The two things I do remember: (a) it was generally a tough haul with all the cruelty, beatings and isolation suffered by the main characters, and (b) I was left with a feeling of enormous letdown at the finale. As McQueen apparently floats away from Devil’s Island on a small handmade raft, a narrator informs that Charriere made it to civilization, wasn’t re-arrested and lived the rest of his life as a free soul. As an audience member I wanted to taste this freedom as badly as Charriere did, and it felt unfair to end the film during his final escape attempt. It needed a denouement showing McQueen in a beachside hammock, staring at the sunset with a pretty wife nearby and maybe a drink in his hand.
Michael Noer‘s Papillon (Bleecker Street, 8.24) stars Charlie Hunnam as McQueen/Charriere and Rami Malek as Hoffman/Dega.