Midnight Express tells the story of a young American, Billy Hayes, who
was arrested in 1970 for possession of Hashish in Istanbul Turkey. The
film chronicles Billy's journey into the nightmarish hell of the
Turkish prison. Slowly, the viewer begins to see how Billy's
personality begins to change from a fun-loving individual, to a
decaying vegetable as the justice system betrays him. Originally
sentenced to 4 years and two months, the head prosecutor successfully
appeals the verdict to the Turkish Supreme Court, forcing the trial
court judge to resentence Billy to a minimum of 30 years.
The torture scenes involving Billy getting sadistically beaten by the prison guard Hamadu are very painful to watch, especially a scene early on in the film where Billy is strung up by his ankles and beaten on a rack for taking a blanket without permission. Billy and his inmates escape plans provide great dramatic tension in a terrific narrative style. Ultimately, Billy engages in a brutal fight with an inmate named Rifki, whom everyone hates, especially Billy, because Rifki rats on all of the prisoners. Rifki likes to make life even more miserable for the inmates. As punishment, Billy is sent to the prison's Section 13 for the criminally insane.
Billy is given bribe money by his girlfriend Susan who comes to see him in a heartbreaking scene. Almost all of Billy's inner-strength is taken away by the harsh realities of the prison. However, he is able to say "I love you" through many tears.
The head guard Hamidou refuses to be bought, and takes Billy to the Sanitarium where he beats him, and tries to have sex with him. Billy charges the guard, rams the guard's head into a spike on the wall, killing him. Stealing his uniform, Billy escapes the prison and shortly afterward we learn that he arrived home with his family 3 weeks later.
I have actually read Billy Hayes' book, Midnight Express. In reality, Billy did not have any major quarrels with the Turkish people. The film shows the opposite. There was really only one guard that treated him badly, but nowhere near what Hamidou did in the movie. In reality, Billy never was transferred to the insane part of the prison for fighting. He had one minor altercation with an inmate. The book talks more about the unsanitary conditions of the prison. (There are many instances in the book that will make you want to surrender your lunch, unfortunately.)
The biggest distortion is that in real-life, Billy Hayes never killed any guard as a part of his escape plan. He simply got out one night and swam across the boarder into Greece and that was it.
There are differences in how the film was made as well. The Turkish Government was outraged at how this movie distorted the real Billy Hayes case and refused to allow the movie to be filmed there. Most of the film was shot off the island of Malta. A good deal of the language spoken in the movie is NOT Turkish, but Maltese, which to the untrained ear, is often mistaken for Turkish dialect.
Nevertheless, I rate the film highly because it is still a very good movie with great acting, music, and dramatic tension. Amazingly, the actor who played Billy Hayes, Brad Davis, died of AIDS. He did an excellent job as the real Billy Hayes. In my view, many scenes had to be changed for dramatic effect. You will remember this film forever. It will undoubtedly make you think twice about doing something stupid in a foreign country! Despite its flaws, when compared to Billy Hayes' real-life story, Midnight Express is still a very emotional film that withstands the test of time. It would be a 10/10 if it were closer to the truth. However, the film is still excellent and is strongly recommended viewing.
Action / Biography / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Action / Biography / Crime / Drama / Thriller
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 mosque), a Swede named Erich, and one of the senior prisoners having already ...
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