Bangkok Hilton (TV Mini-Series 1989– ) Poster

(1989– )

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Superior work from Australia.
Rene Hasekamp25 April 2002
This is the ultimate TV mini-series. Everything is right. The story, the acting, the filming, the length, the locations, what not?

It looks as if even the prison scenes have been filmed in a real Thai prison, although one might doubt if permission would have been given for that by the Thai authorities if the script was known to them. All the other Bangkok scenes are definitely filmed on real locations. Also the airport scenes. They were definitely filmed at Bangkok Airport. I can guarantee this, knowing the place well. In this series Nicole Kidman broke through as an actress and she would deserve an Oscar, if there were one for this category (TV movies). Her acting is so perfectly natural and it looks as if she is going through the events herself, like in a documentary. One seldom sees such superior acting in a TV mini-series. All the locations have been chosen extremely well. I happen to know Bangkok quite well and I would not have been able to suggest any better locations. The movie last for about 4.5 hours, but this is not one minute too long. One needs every scene in the movie and it never bores. One can hardly believe that 4.5 hours have passed when the end credits appear. Time flies and if one looks at a video or DVD version it is impossible to interrupt it.

This one clearly shows that a TV mini-series can be of high quality and can be far superior to a movie, made for theaters. We can be happy that there is a DVD version (at least there is one in Europe). Everybody will want to see this one more than once. Superior work from Australia! Without any hesitation: 10/10!
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A great miniseries
skottyrock16 October 2001
One of Nicole Kidman's finest roles. 1989's Bangkok Hilton is everything 1999's Brokedown Palace isn't. It's a well-written story with wonderfully crafted characters. Kidman is spot on throughout the film; a very convincing portrayal of a young woman whose life begins and almost ends when she sets off in search of her father. The supporting cast: Denholm Elliot (from the Indiana Jones series) and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) are wonderful in their supporting roles. Highly recommended viewing. 5 stars.
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CineCritic25174 March 2008
When I first saw the series, I was 15 years old. Ever since I saw it, the first thing that came to mind whenever I heard the name Nicole Kidman was this series. And it was also something that tended to come up at the dinnertable when we were going back discussing television-shows.

Now, some 17 years later I accidentally stumbled upon the DVD and I was rather reserved about the thought of seeing it again because what else but disappointment was there to gain from seeing something which held a good memory but was surely going to be completely outdated.

Imagine my surprise that although it was rather dated, it had actually aged so well. Another surprise was finding no one less than Hugo Weaving playing a major role in it. An actor I had grown to love ever since I saw him in 'The Interview' and the later classics such as LOTR and the Matrix.

Bangkok Hilton has survived the test of time basically because of the really great acting performances, script, story and ambiance. And apparently this was all that it needed to remain the classic that it has become. And by no means the cinematography, which wouldn't stand a chance against even the average soap opera we see today.

When you compare the story and the screenplay to modern similar tales such as the prison-series OZ, you will find that it is really hopeless out of date. The hell-hole of a jail in which Kidman is kept, is like a Disneyride compared to what the men in Emerald City had to endure in OZ. You will find no 'spooning' practices in Bangkok Hilton if you know what I mean.

Perhaps this is what makes this mini series so great, that it's the story that keeps you on the edge of your seat rather than a form of (graphic) violence which seems to be todays primary ingredient for a success film-wise. Just see Labirinto Del Fauno if you want to check my point. That was a so called 'message movie' with really no message at all but in stead featured a been there done that war-drama and cardboard characters. Nonetheless, that movie was hailed by the public and professional movie critics when all it had to offer was a vapid contrast between fable and really graphic violence replacing what used to be a tale between good and evil and its 'grey zone'.

Bangkok Hilton confirmed what I suspected all along, namely that cinema (although achieving greater technical marvels day by day) is becoming increasingly more banal and formula driven, even in the successful, so called 'art house films'.

I'm sorry for letting this review turn out to be such a rant. Thanks for reading and see Bankok Hilton whenever you get a chance.

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Arguably one of the best Australian TV productions ever
Keith F. Hatcher24 September 2005
I have just had the luck to see this TV mini again recently. The second viewing just reinforced my impressions from my first viewing a few years ago.

This is Nicole Kidman playing an extraordinary rôle in a great film, before she became another one for the Hollywood heap. Since this film, I have only ever seen her in two better rôles: "The Portrait of a Lady" (qv) and Robert Daldry's astounding masterpiece "The Hours" (qv).

A two-part mini of 90 minutes each, I had to watch the whole three hours in one go: but was not at all tired on either experience. "Bangkok Hilton" does not mess about with unnecessary details, but gets you right into the story from the beginning, especially in the second half which includes those tremendous prison scenes in Thailand's capital, from whence logically the film's title.

Yes, one of Nicole Kidman's earlier works, but one in which you know she was on the road to great things. A few stupidities got in the way - like "Moulin Rouge!" (qv) - but even so, one can now see where she did her spade-work, and "Bangkok Hilton" is one of the best examples.
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kyranthis18 December 2001
Bangkok Hilton is a stunning series. Denholm Elliot gives one of the finest acting performances I've ever seen, and the plot has you gripped from the first episode right until the wonderful finish. It's been many many years since the BBC last showed it, though: a great shame!
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Just as topical today as it was 20 years ago when it was made
mab848528 February 2006
If you're an Aussie you will be well-aware of the recent Bali-based drug cases involving Schapelle Corby and the "Bali 9". The latter are clearly guilty and will pay for their crimes, many will say justifiably.

Schapelle Corby's case is another matter altogether with opinion as to her guilt or otherwise being divided. Her case is very similar to Kidman's in that the drugs are alleged to be someone else's.

If anyone saw Corby's reaction to her conviction on TV last November it is identical to Kidman's in the BH with shortness of breath, deep breathing, shocked look. The resemblance is uncanny: life imitates art which imitates life.

Acting in the BH is superb all round. The story is well-written and harrowing, especially given those recent events. One can accept the Asian countries' reasons for their tough stance against drugs but emotions and sympathy for those jailed are stirred in the BH.

It's amazing that this miniseries was made 20 years ago as it could have happened yesterday. Indeed the only differences are that the barbaric firing squad was replaced by more humane lethal injection (just 3 years ago) and that actors such as Kidman and Weaving have moved on to even greater acclaim and Elliott has unfortunately passed on.... and the callous Ehlers has left an indelible impression, typecast for life by me at least.
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Certainly the best mini-series ever created.
ParaGraph23 July 1999
When I first have seen these Tv-series in Russia, I didn't have an opportunity to see it from the beginning, but I was surprised. It's the best TV-film I have ever seen, and it's Kidman's best performance. KEN Cameron did a great job. So does Grame Revell's fantastic, brilliant score. It grips you so much, you are nervous, it's so WONDERFULLY and realstically acted and directed, you even forget that you're in front of your TV set. By the way, the scenes of Nicole Kidman's redemption were borrowed later by Frank Darabont in his adaptation of Stephen King's "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption". It's such a pity that this movie was not taken too seriously and it passed by too quickly, and at the same time we have ridiculous bad acted features like Titanic. By the way, I managed to buy a video with these series, and I'm so HAPPY!
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Bloody Fantastic
Theraveness3 November 1998
I waited so long to see this mini-series because first time it aired in Australia I was unable to watch it. I was not disappointed at all, everything I thought it would be it was. This is undoubtedly Nicole Kidman's best performance ever. I could do nothing but highly recommend this to anyone.
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Shiningly Brilliant!
ac_lees20 May 2001
Granted, the first 20 minutes are somewhat boring, but from there, the film just takes off! A brilliant story (and the basis of films like Breakdown Palace) sets this off from the beginning to the very end.

Nicole Kidman's performance and transformation from a quiet, shy country girl into a tough, cunning prisoner is incredible and so well-done.

Bravo to the actors, producers, directors, to EVERYONE involved in BANGKOK HILTON! Well worth a watch for everybody who likes drama, action, thrillers, romance and for everybody who doesn't!
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have to see
lauralovesmoscow19 December 2004
You have to see this movie! As it was said in the other comment, the story is very exciting and the play of the actors is just super! I was, however, very surprised to see there was only one comment on this movie! Haven't you seen this? I can guarantee that after seeing this one you will definitely want to stay our of jail and away from Thailand. Trust my word! The story is very beautiful and there's no way to tell for sure how it will end (if you haven't seen it before). If you like adventure and close to truth stories then this one is for you. Can suggest you also to see "If tomorrow comes" with Tom Berenger and "Shawshank redemption"!! Just marvelous!
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The best mini-series ever.
stevo-2125 December 1999
Having had to put up with a rubbish recording made from the TV a few years ago, I was very pleased to get this on video for Christmas. I've just watched it again and it is still as good as ever.

The story is superb (FAR too close to reality for it's own good), the filming doesn't pull any punches (to the point of fairly graphically showing an execution) and the acting is simply superb. The late, great Denholm Eliot is fantastic and is only outshone by Nicole Kidman in her best role to date.

All in all, if you get a chance to see this, put aside four and a half hours and watch it. You won't regret it!
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ADESAS4 May 2002
It was well past midnight, I had a hell of a cold, and I didn't even see it starting. The scene I first saw was Nicole on the beach in Goa, minutes before the photographer joins her. Three hours later I just couldn't let it go, although I happened to turn on the VCR half way through just in case. It is unexpectedly good, gripping story, wonderful acting, unpretentious...Nicole is simply astounding, you are not ready for her pre-Tom, pre-plastic accurate performance. Pure bravura. And the Weaving guy? You just see him elfin and distant, human and committed, without even trying such thing as a flirtation with otherwise easy prey Kidman. Denholm is as always, solid, lovable, tender...The court and jail scenes seem realistic, some times even bureaucratic, while still retaining the horror of a fate which so many times is beyond our control. It makes you introspect what would happen if... I found it amazing that I had not the slightest idea about this series, not because I'm Leslie Helliwell's reviewer or something, but because it has been so badly overlooked...I agree that it deserves a rerunning and a DVD edition in full splendour (the copy I saw was not perfect). A 8/10 is the least it deserves.
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One of the best movie/acting performance ever
gnb2626 June 2004
I saw this film along time ago, when I was about 10 or 11 years old. In recent times I've mention it to many persons and nobody seems to have ever seen or heard of it. This is hands down one of the best movie/performance I have ever seen in my entire life. Anyone who has any doubt as whether Nicole Kidman can act, watch this movie. I honestly don't want to say anything about the movie, other than get it and watch it. I'll state the obvious, the story took place in Bangkok, Thailand. I cannot understand why it has not been seen by the masses, since 'Hollywood' like to ride 'the celebrity of the moment' band wagon and ironically this is actually a good wagon to hop on. The mini contains typical Hollywood stuff, Deception, Confinement, Damsel in Distress, a well as 'Pharmaceutical' and a 'Pharmacist'. Try to get it and watch it, It's tight.
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The ultimate horror of every backpacker tourist
Turan10 August 2003
It must be the ultimate horror for any backpacker / long distance traveller: you get jailed in a foreign country whose language you do not speak and where you can expect "a fair trial plus a fine hanging", even as an innocent party.

The plot may be somewhat too well constructed. Normally, parents and friends would protest against the arrest of an innocent tourist, especially if the tourist never never had anything to do with drugs.

You bet I look particularly well after my luggage in such countries!

Meanwhile a similar case has taken place in Indonesia: the Australian tourist Schapelle Corby was sentenced to 20 years in jail for drug possession. The scenario was very similar: the defendant insists the drugs were planted, the case is not too solid, but enough for a conviction.
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Great movie (series). Sometimes the course of events is a little
ionov2 April 2001
artificial yet that is the authentic story's fault.

Otherwise very convincing late Denholm Elliott and Nichole, great set-up, intriguing plot and nearly proper pace.

Very worth buying for a home libruary.
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A moving journey, betrayal and struggle
Dana Wang12 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers

Nicole Kidman delivers a powerful performance in this well-made, very gripping mini-series, and the rest of the cast is perfect as well.

Katrina Stanton (Nicole Kidman), a twenty-year-old Australian woman goes to England to search for her father, Hal Stanton (Denholm Elliot), whom she has never met in her entire life. She finds out that her father may live in Thailand now and at the same time she meets Arkie Ragan (Jerome Ehlers), a freelance newspaper photographer. In Bangkok, Katrina gets in contact with her father's lawyer, Richard Carlisle (Hugo Weaving) but Hal refuses to meet her, so she has to fly back to Australia. At the airport she is arrested- two kilos of heroine has been found in one of her suitcases, and Arkie vanishes without a trace. Katrina is then sent to the notorious prison 'Bangkok Hilton', where she endures horrid conditions. At last Richard and Hal are willing to help her but Hal chooses not to reveal his true identity to his daughter, as he pratically never does to the outside world.

Richard takes Katrina's case and meanwhile, Hal begins to search for Arkie Ragan in order to bring the drug smuggler to justice. Katrina befriends an inmate named Mandy Engels (Joy Smithers) who has carried seven kilos of heroine and is to be sentenced to death. Soon, Katrina will face the same fate.

When I first saw this many years ago I was profoundly moved by the intensity of the plot- Katrina's longing for finding her father, her father's tragic past, her mother's tortured state and her being betrayed. At one point I actually believed this was a true story (I was, after all, still very young) and Nicole Kidman's acting is so convincing. I finally got the videos at an online shop about a month ago.

However, every play has its loopholes, and this one is no exception. Just to name two here: firstly, why does Katrina call herself 'Katrina Stanton'? Hal Stanton never marries her mother, Catherine Faulkner (Judy Morris), and she is raised by her mother, hence her surname should be Faulkner.

Secondly, Richard Carlisle is Hal Stanton's lawyer who deals with his financial matters, but he later becomes Katrina's defence lawyer. Is he a criminal lawyer as well?

Notwithstanding the loopholes, this is nonetheless a great drama, a fine piece of work. Highly recommended.
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dmhenry24 July 2002
I won't drivel on... blah blah, best TV miniseries I've ever seen... blah blah, Nicole Kidman's best work... all the other reviews say that too. What the others haven't mentioned is the emotionally draining, nerve-wracking and brilliant performance given by little Aussie actress Joy Smithers as Mandy Engels, the woman who befriends Katrina in prison. Very, very impressive.
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As good as we remembered it
johnbirch-29 November 2012
My wife and I watched this first 20 years ago and were stunned by the sheer quality of the acting and writing in this way above average TV mini series.

It was obviously a different world for TV - six episodes allow the story to develop with all its complexity, all its twists and turns. Its almost like a documentary reconstruction at times - it is so real and plausible.

However, what really impressed us at the time - along with a sterling performance by Denholm Elliot (which was only to be expected) - was the performance by some Australian actress we'd never heard of before. Very promising career ahead of her, we thought. Nicole... something or other. Wonder what happened to her?

This week we saw it again, for the first time for 20 years, and - remarkably - it really is again as good as it was the first time around. Okay, the production values are very 70s but the story is as brilliantly told and as gripping as ever.
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Brilliant acting
feeneyorama4 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I can't believe how good this miniseries was in light of the fact that Nicole Kidman has been in some stinkers of movies since then. This is her best acting ever. One mistake I did notice though is when Kat goes through the garbage chute and is in the tunnels below the hospital, she kicks off her shoes and kicks them aside as they are impeding her progress. When she meets up with Hal in the tunnel, the shoes are back on her feet. Did anyone else notice? Wonderful story, very well acted. I thought Nicole's character was very well written and she showed an amazing strength of character considering her upbringing by her very cold mother and grandmother. Arkie's character reminds me of certain men I have observed in life who use their good looks and charisma to lure women into doing their bidding and have absolutely no feeling for these women and no remorse for the terrible suffering they cause. This miniseries will stay in your mind long after you have watched it.
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Not in the US?
acfielding9 June 2007
I loved this TV mini-series when I saw this many years ago. It is a wonderful story on multiple levels. It is about a girl Kat (played by Nicole Kidman when she still had very curly hair) searching for her father, and the trouble she gets herself into when she trusts, and is "set up" and abandoned, by a travelling companion. It is also educational in alerting all to the extreme dangers of trusting strangers. The characters are real and well portrayed. There is a good deal of suspense and insight into the legal and prison system in Thailand. I would love to see it again, or purchase the DVD. I don't understand why it apparently was not released in the US?
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Anomaly with Hal's HR Holden
jfmcspreading10 March 2007
An excellent mini series - very realistic and quite chilling as well. Most other reviewers have covered the plot very well, so no need for me to comment further in that regard.

I did spot one curious (very small) error in the series and was wondering if anybody else had noticed this. There is a scene in episode 1 where Hal is driving to Guardbridge to visit Catherine - just after his true identity has been discovered, and the repercussions are serious for him. When he pulls up at the house in the white HR Holden, look carefully and you will see that the interior of the car is red. He goes into the house, speaks to the housekeeper and then leaves. Yet when he gets back into the white HR Holden, its interior colour has magically changed to Blue. You'd think that if they were going to use two cars, they'd get them with the same interior colour!!!
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Libbets25 November 1999
I loved this film, it was totally stunning. Nicole Kidman gives one hell of a performance, and the tension never lets up. The film is also incredibly realistic and all of the characters (especially Kidman) are convincing. All in all a brilliant, brilliant film.
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Great movie! See it!
skaternl17 November 1999
This is a movie that will make you shiver. Why? Because it's awesome good. A very good play of Kidman before she got famous. The cast is pretty outstanding and the story is very good (too bad this happens in real life too, it's not a SF movie or anything, I wouldn't be surprised if it's based on a real story). It's too bad this movie ain't in the videostores. But I'm sure they will broadcast it enough around Europe. Sorry non-european people, I wouldn't know where to catch this movie. BBC often broadcasts it.
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eilerson18 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
It's all flawless. I have watched it many many times, and it never gets old. Always tense, exciting and worrying. The sense of heated desperation always hits me watching this. The only problem with this show, is that nobody has heard of it. It's not possible to talk about a show that nobody has seen. cause you don't wanna give spoilers :(
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