Alcatraz is the most secure prison of its time. It is believed that no one can ever escape from it, until three daring men make a possible successful attempt at escaping from one of the most infamous prisons in the world.
The French naval ship, Le Vengeur, based out of Marseille, has just docked in Brest for an extended stay. The ship's captain, Lieutenant Seblon, can see the passion in his men, which can as... See full summary »
Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it's dammed and turned into a lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a canoeing trip they'll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.
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
In 2004, Screenwriter Oliver Stone apologized for the portrayal of Turkey, Turkish prisons, and the Turkish people in the movie. See more »
Billy Hayes never had any real issues with the Turkish people, and made some friends in prison. He did not have any profanity rant when the Istanbul Appellate Court forced the trail judge to give him a minimum sentence of thirty years, but actually begged for forgiveness when he spoke before receiving his new sentence. 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 only opening titles are: Columbia Pictures presents a Casablanca FilmWorks production an Alan Parker film Midnight Express After this, the opening prologue text reads "The following is based on a true story. It began October 6, 1970 in Istanbul, Turkey." See more »
Some of the VHS and Betamax copies included text before the end credits run that did not appear on the DVD and Blu-ray copies "On May 18,1978 the motion picture you have just seen was shown to an audience of world press at the Cannes Film Festival.... 43 days later the United States and Turkey entered into formal negotations for the exchange of prisoners." 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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