Movie Review: Midnight Express (1978)

Starring: Brad Davis, Randy Quaid and John Hurt

Directed by: Alan Parker

The real life story of William Hayes who was caught trying to smuggle drugs out of Turkey and thrown in jail to be made an example out of.

Midnight Express started off tense and full of drama as we experience William Hayes, played by the late Brad Davis, taping hashish to his body in order to smuggle it past airport security in Turkey and take it back to America. The use of his racing heartbeat as sound was brilliantly done as we watch him almost sneak by the Turkish officials before getting caught and searched at gun point. If the opening 10 minutes were anything to go by I was in for a real treat from this movie which is now 40 years old but hasn’t appeared to suffered due to its age as some movies do. The acting was good throughout by lead star Brad Davis and he was joined on screen by some high quality support acting from Randy Quaid, Paul L. Smith and the wonderful John Hurt. The pace of the movie was good as the story moved along William’s prison sentence in a timely manner and was able to show the effect the prison was having on him, both mentally and physically.

The filming location chosen was great as it really highlighted the harshness of William’s reality and the brutality of the guards was great to watch despite being grossly over the top and exaggerated which portrayed the people of Turkey very negatively. I think the real story of Hayes was enough to make this movie drama filled and entertaining without having to over dramatise certain events which did nothing more than piss off the nation of Turkey. The camera work was very good as the movie relied on hand held cameras for a lot of the prison scenes to keep the movie a little jittery and bumpy in keeping with the journey of William’s prison stint which was nothing short of grimy and dirty. The one thing that I didn’t quite like in this movie was when William was transferred into the ward for the criminally insane. The last 20 minutes or so of the movie were a little less exciting and interesting to watch as less effort seemed to go into both the script writing and the general production of those particular scenes. Also, I watched this movie on Netflix and I’m not sure if it was just Netflix or the film itself but when there was somebody speaking Turkish there were no subtitles which at times was a little frustrating as the movie was a little harder to follow.

Overall, Midnight Express was a great watch which told a fascinating real life story of a man that was dealt a rough hand. The acting was superb as was the overall story telling and despite the last 20 minutes being of less quality it was still a very enjoyable movie to watch.

8/10

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