On October 6, 1970 while boarding an international flight out of Istanbul Airport, American Billy Hayes is caught attempting to smuggle 2 kilos of hashish out of the country, the drugs strapped to his body. He is told that he will be released if he cooperates with the authorities in identifying the person who actually sold him the hash. Billy's troubles really begin when after that assistance, he makes a run for it and is recaptured. He is initially sentenced to just over four years for possession, with no time for the more harsh crime of smuggling. The prison environment is inhospitable in every sense, with a sadistic prison guard named Hamidou ruling the prison, he who relishes the mental and physical torture he inflicts on the prisoners for whatever reason. Told to trust no one, Billy does befriend a few of the other inmates, namely fellow American Jimmy Booth (in for stealing two candlesticks from a church), a Swede named Erich, and one of the senior prisoners having already ... Written by
Oliver Stone's original script detailed Billy Hayes' escape over the mountains, but the the small budget did not allow for the filming of these scenes. The actual escape that occurred in real-life was not used for the movie, replaced with a different escape. The escape in the film was shot in Greece doubling for Turkey. See more »
Boom operator visible chasing[?] as he climbs a path by the prison wall. See more »
[Susan makes her way through a line at an airline checkpoint]
Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me... Excuse me.
[she reaches Billy in line]
Geez, I hate flying.
It's something I ate. I think I've been poisoned.
Or you're just excited about getting home.
No, I think it's the baklavas.
[...] See more »
That the concept of a society is based on the quality of mercy...
Alan Parker is a very versatile director and I've enjoyed most of his films. Over the years, I've heard a lot about 'Midnight Express' and how it's one of the most disturbing films. The film was at the centre of controversy mainly for its portrayal of the Turkish people and corruption and the graphic violence.
However, in all fairness, Parker's intention was to depict the prison as a harsh place (by portraying the policemen and wardens as cruel and even sadistic at times) and thus he took some liberty. I don't think he was thinking about how to make the Turks look bad but at the same time there were places he could have avoided this. For example, one can question whether all the Turkish inmates hated foreigners. The use of washed out colour certainly gives the film a grittier look but was it also necessary for the scenes outside the prison? As a result, they look very similar which might give ignorant people the impression that the entire country looks like a prison. I'd like to stress again that it doesn't imply all Turks as barbaric inhumane pigs (the judges were portrayed as sympathetic), maybe just the ones working in prison.
Putting that aside, 'Midnight Express' tells the harrowing story of Bill Hayes, who was arrested at a Turkish airport for the possession of drugs and locked up in prison. Parker does a fine job of telling this story through the protagonist's perspective. It couldn't have been an easy movie to shoot but Parker and his director of photography Michael Seresin get it done. I only found two sequences to be a little over the top. One being Hays's outburst in court to which the judges respond sympathetically when in a real courtroom he wouldn't be allowed to go this far, swearing and cussing. The other scene was the death of one of the policemen which was unintentionally funny. Saying more would be giving out spoilers.
'Midnight Express' has got solid performances from the American and British cast. Brad Davis does a superb job with a difficult role. John Hurt and Randy Quaid are great too. The actors playing the policemen and Turkish inmates were either wooden or caricatures. On a side note, the use of Maltese as Turkish was quite funny.
The score deserves special mention. The instrumental tracks are simply amazing and they contribute brilliantly to the scenes.
Parker's 'Midnight Express' is gritty, harsh and even uncompromising to an extent showing that the filmmaker can handle almost any complex subject.
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