Forever embroiled in controversy, Midnight Express divides viewers into opposing camps: those who think it's one of the most intense real-life dramas ever made, and those who abhor its manipulative tactics and alteration o... more »f facts for the exploitative purpose of achieving a desired effect. That effect is powerfully achieved, regardless of how you may feel about director Alan Parker and Oscar®-winning screenwriter Oliver Stone's interpretation of the story of Billy Hayes. It was the American Hayes--played by the late Brad Davis in an unforgettable performance--who was caught smuggling two kilograms of hashish while attempting to board a flight from Istanbul, Turkey, in 1970. He was sentenced to four years in a hellish Turkish prison on a drug possession charge, but his sentence was later extended (though not by 30 years, as the film suggests), and Hayes endured unthinkable brutality and torture before his escape in 1975. Unquestionably, this is a superbly crafted film, provoking a visceral response that's powerful enough to boil your blood. By the time Hayes erupts in an explosion of self-defensive violence, Parker and Stone have proven the power--and danger--of their skill. Their film is deeply manipulative, extremely xenophobic, and embellishes reality to heighten its calculated impact. Is that a crime? Not necessarily, and there's no doubt that Midnight Express is expertly directed and blessed with exceptional supporting performances (especially from John Hurt as a long-term prisoner). Still, it's obvious that strings are being pulled, and Parker, while applying his talent to a nefarious purpose, is a masterful puppeteer. --Jeff Shannon« less
I forgot I had watched this before but it was just as good as the last time I watched. A brutal true story not for the faint of heart but definitely worth a watch for everyone else! Brad Davis and Randy Quaid are at their best!
William E. from ATKINSON, IL Reviewed on 10/20/2011...
I can only concur with all the comments previously posted.
As someone who has been to Turkey twice (with only one run in with the law), I can attest to the overall feel of the film and the people in charge.
On my second trip I was standing in line at Customs. I made a comment to a fellow traveler that among the the questions the Customs officials should ask (of Americans) is: "Have you seen Midnight Express?". Unfortunately, I was overheard by one of the guards. Fortunately, he just shook his head and laughed.
My only real run-in with the law was I was driving a rental car along the Mediterranean Turkish Riviera and cops were pulling cars over. I can't tell if they were random checks or not. I know I hadn't done anything wrong. Any way, I already had the window down when the cop comes over. I looked out the window opening and said, "Yes?" And he just waved his arms indicating we could go on. While driving away we started laughing because he probably didn't speak English. So, we got away without even paying a bribe.
Back to the movie and my previous comment. Whether or not there was any embellishment of the films truer facts I think it should be manadatory watching for anyone who travels abroad and even thinks about smuggling drugs back. It's impact is better then the "Scared Straight" series. A real eye opener.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Florence M. from LILLINGTON, NC Reviewed on 8/21/2009...
This classic movie is the story of an American guy who tries to smuggle drugs out of Turkey. You live through the shock and reminder that just because you are American doesn't mean you are subject to American laws. Rather, you are subject to the laws of that country no matter how harsh they seem to us. The cast does an excellent job of revealing the Turkish judicial system and prison system. As you walk with the main character through his ordeal, you find yourself frightened at the uncertainty, accepting the pain of interrogation, and anger at the wonton disregard for the freedoms that we as Americans see as innate. Enjoy this tense, roller coaster ride of emotion movie!
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Rivetting performance from Brad Davis
William | Australia | 12/21/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many reviewers ridicule the method used to try and smuggle the drugs in this movie, but back in the early 1970's (when the film was based) these kind of methods actually took place. Yes, people are stupid for doing these things ... but it's hard not to have compassion for them when they are served lifetime sentences. "Midnight Express" explores one man's time in a hellish Turkish prison. The tension of being caught and then beaten in prison are so well captured that you almost don't want to look. One scene that comes to mind is when Davis is hung upside down and beaten so bad, you can almost feel it.Davis performance is exceptional, yet did not give him the career you'd expect. An excellent actor, who died at the age of 41.The DVD itself is excellent too. An impressive widescreen transfer, plus a full screen option thrown in for people who dont know the value of widescreen (ie. a pointless inclusion in my opinion). The DVD also boasts a 1978 documentary of the film, and a trailer.A must own! One of the best prison films to date, along with "Shawshank Redemption"."
Midnight express in the eye of a turkish artist
icy | Istanbul Turkey | 08/20/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"alright I'm Turkish.Just about a week ago I was questioned by a cab driver in washington dc based on his knowledge about Turkey-which was nothing but midnight express.I was disturbed and totally disgusted with his ignorance.How could a man in his sane mind could make judgements based on hollywood productions?
The Turkish hate this movie with a passion.any other viewers here should try to understand that Turkey is a developýng country trying very hard to advertise itself and try to shed off the barbaric image the ottoman empire left it with.a movie like the midnight express could evoke a lot of prejudice and hatred against Turkey -especially for those who could not even tell ýf Turkey was a bird or a country.
Leaving my patriotic emotions aside,As an artist I have to be totally impartial.It was well done.The acting was superb, soundtrack above the standards for it's time and the plot,totally striking.
Just remember,this is not a documentary,its an artistic interpretation of someone who has never been to the Tukish Jail at the time of the event-neither have I. I congradulate Parker for his directing talents but totally hate him for his ignorance in research and his movie's possible effects on a newborn nation."
A True Story?
Neal Blitzer | 06/30/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When you see this movie, it makes you wonder how come ALL Turkish characters in the movie are ugly dumb sadistical perverts (and also pigs, in the main character's "Address to a Nation", in a courtroom scene). Even in the 1950s anti-communist era movies you come by sensible russian spies or pretty russian girls, along with nasty Igors or Ivans. This racist element was perhaps florished in Oliver Stone's mind, to provoke the public interest and sympathy on a drug smuggler by trashing a relatively unknown nation, betting late 70s drug relaxed public would love it (I sometimes wonder how the public would react to this movie if it was released in Reagan's War on Drugs era). I give some credit to Alan Parker for the way he exploited all this to provoke public sentiment. However I do not understand how Oliver Stone got an Oscar for twisting a story to make it sell, in expense of a nation's defamation (then again who cares about that in Hollywood), and turning it into a weak plot and an even weaker ending. If you wanna read the True Story (as true as it can get I guess) go read Billy Hayes' book. If you want to watch the movie just keep these words by Joseph Goebbels (Hitler's Propoganda Minister) in mind: "The bigger the lie , the more they believe it""
One of the most disturbing, yet powerful films
Neal Blitzer | 09/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie brings us into the terror that William Hayes experienced in a Turkish prison in the early seventies after attempting to smuggle hash from that country. I know after the book was published, it caused radical changes in the Turkish prison system and Turkey released many foreign nationals from incarceration. We cannot compare the Turkey of the early 1970's to the Turkey of today, which is a modern cosmopolitan environment.I think the movie wouldn't have the same affect with a lesser actor than the enormously talented, under-appreciated and late Brad Davis as William Hayes. I found that he had a boy-like innocence, and I was compelled to feel very protective of him, despite his drug smuggling. He has some Oscar caliber performances, in particular one where he goes into a pathological rage and bites the tongue off of another inmate. I have never seen such monumental fury like that on film. Another scene that gripped me was his bitter statement before the Turkish court as he is being sentenced to 30 years. Through Brad Davis, you feel this young man?s hopes, fears, anguish, terror, and rage ? the entire spectrum of emotion. You know an actor is powerful, when it only takes the look in his eyes to affect your senses. After this film came out, I was waiting for Davis to get bigger and better roles, why he didn't is baffling to me. John Hurt was actually nominated for an Oscar for this film, although he was very good, his performance could not touch that of Davis. Alan Parker deserves much credit to for his direction. The scenes in this film range from beautiful with the glorious mosques of the Ottoman Empire against the Turkish sky in the opening scene, to dark and grey as pathos sets in on our main character. Oliver Stone has a screenplay which sets the tone. Many of the scenes are in Turkish with no subtitles, but although we don?t know what they are saying, we really do; that was done on purpose since the scene was meant to convey the moment. Giorgio Moroder produced a beautiful score that reflected the wide array of emotions in this film. It is not an easy film to watch, some of the scenes are so violent and gruesome, many would turn away, but it is a harrowing story of a young man?s five year nightmare."
Movie deviates from book
Neal Blitzer | Baltimore, MD | 08/04/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I feel the movie does some good. It doesn't deny that the main charector was wrong for what he did. Remember, back in 1970, there was a more cavilier attitude towards drugs and he was dealing with the original 4 year prison sentence appropriately. But being beaten, tortured and imprisoned in a foriegn country, with limited contact with family and freinds is going to be traumatic for anyone, and the movie dispays that well. With that said, however, I think the movie deviates WAY too much from the book. The escape first-handedly described in the book is much more fascinating and would have been better to see than the movies deviation. The ommision of some the amnesties to prisoners makes the movie fall short as well.
The movie gets the basic point of the book across, but the impact could have been stronger if it just followed the story as laid out by the first hand recollection of it."