Papillon [1973]

Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton) directs this true story of Henri Charriere (better known as "Papillon" or "the butterfly"), a prisoner so determined to escape the notorious Devil's Island, he attempted it multiple times until he reached old age. Steve McQueen plays Charriere, and Dustin Hoffman is very good as the hero's anxious, defenseless friend. Based on Charriere's own memoir and uncompromisingly adapted by screenwriters Dalton Trumbo (Johnny Got His Gun) and Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Three Days of the Condor), the film is tough going (it is set, after all, on Devil's Island) but not gratuitously violent. There are sequences that stay with one for a long time, such as Papillon's brief stay at a leper colony and the long periods of starvation and solitary confinement he endures after each attempted flight. --Tom Keogh

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