On October 6, 1970 while boarding an international flight out of Istanbul Airport, American Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) is caught attempting to smuggle two 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 sold him the hashish. 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 (Paul L. Smith) 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 (Randy Quaid) (in for stealing two candlesticks from a mosque), a Swede named Erich (Norbert ...Written by
Banned (and never released theatrically) in Turkey until 1992 when the private television channel HBB broadcast it. See more »
The fez hat worn by several Turkish men in the movie has
been extremely rare in Turkey since 1925 when it was abolished by Kemal Atatürk (the leader and founder of the Republic of Turkey) in an attempt to "westernize" the country. 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 »
The Columbia Pictures logo is played in complete silence. See more »
4:3 TV broadcasts, VHS, Betamax, Laser VideoDisc, CED VideoDisc, and Video8mm releases framed at the 1.33:1 ratio, as well as the full-screen side of the 1998 DVD, presented the movie open-matte at 1.33:1, which shows more picture information on the top and bottom of the screen than in the original theatrical release. See more »
Performed by Biricik
(Starting train station scene) See more »
The true story of American Billy Hayes' nightmarish prison stint...
"Midnight Express" is the type of movie that stays with you, that makes you think about the things that you have in your everyday life, and makes you cherish those things. The movie opens with our "hero" William "Billy" Hayes wrapping himself up in aluminum folded hash, as he is preparing to attempt going through customs with the drugs around his waist. It's Turkey in 1970, and as the movie points out, bombs are being planted on aircrafts like flies on syrup. Right off the bat, we can see that Billy does not have the "cojones" for such a task, as the recurrent heartbeat that becomes the movie's trademark, along with its Oscar-winning score by Giorgio Moroder, gets stronger and stronger to the point where that nervousness and lack of cool costs him his freedom. He is searched before boarding the plane, and is taken away into a nightmarish ride.
There's a problem that I have with a character played by "American Graffiti's" Bo Hopkins, who comes in and is very fluent in Turkish, and introduces himself as "sort of a representative from the U.S. Consulate". The problem that I have with this character is that we are never told his name, or why he is even there, but he is certainly a key element in the film, since he is the one who put Billy behind bars after a stupid attempt to escape.
Now, I do agree on the fact that the punishment must fit the crime, and at the beginning, the 4-year sentence that Billy's given seems to be just about right for a federal offense such as trying to smuggle drugs from one country to another, but our "hero" never seems to be able to understand the severity of his crime, and never seems to regret his actions, even coming close to demanding that his father "get him out of there". After his sentence is changed to Life in Prison, Billy goes berserk, and starts a monologue against Turkish justice, and even its people that must have caused quite a controversy back in its day.
The supporting characters are all brilliantly played, namely John Hurt in an Oscar-nominated turn as an English prisoner who has been half eaten by drugs and prison life, and who is left behind by Billy at the end, but we never are told what became of him. Randy Quaid is equally good, albeit, in a more thankless role as a fellow American who was imprisoned for 7 years after stealing a candlestick from a temple.
The movie is not easy to digest, but is realistic enough to make you feel for the leading characters, especially Billy, even though we know that he deserved to do the time, we don't feel like he deserved Life Sentence, and so, that is why the ending is so rewarding in our hearts. Rewarding not in a "Shawshank Redemption" fantasy type of a way, but in a true sense, because unlike Andy Dufresne in "Shawshank", Billy's escape is purely random, and we go along with him for the ride towards freedom, not like Andy, who snuck out the back door, and left us wanting for more. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that "Shawshank" is one of the top 5 movies that I've ever seen, but "Midnight Express" stays with you a little longer. They don't make 'em like this anymore. By the way, this was Oliver Stone's first script to be turned into a movie.
I highly recommend this movie, as it is one of the true jewels of the golden era of Hollywood in the 1970's. Check it out.
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