Midnight Express  (1978)    74/100

Rating :  74/100                                                                      121 Min        18

Possibly Alan Parker’s most famous film, the true story of William Hayes who tries to smuggle some hashish for his friends back home in the States from Turkey in 1970 and, well, he doesn’t make it. The screenplay won Oliver Stone an Oscar for 1978 and for the first half the film holds your interest whilst remaining nothing special. There’s even a decidedly odd homoerotic moment that stands out completely askew from the rest of the narrative as Parker fumbles his opportunity to show the gay relationship that Hayes actually did engage with, but throughout the film the Turkish characters and Parker’s decision not to translate what they are saying proves to be one of the more interesting elements. It helps create the sense of complete alienation that the main character feels, and each of the Turkish actors seem to have so much individual character of their own it’s almost like a sci-fi (Stone has since apologised for his overwhelmingly negative depiction of all the Turks in the film). The use of sound, particularly of a heart racing, works quite well here too.

Prison films are a staple of cinema and sadly how good they are can sometimes be marked by how harrowing and brutal the portrayal of the experience, as well as how much we identify with the character’s struggle. ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (94) regularly and deservedly features on many people’s ‘best films ever’ list, but worth also checking out is the classic ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’ (85) and the recent British film ‘Offender’ (12). Here there is no disappointment in the drama stakes as the hellish downfall of reality for the main character continues to gather pace. Brad Davis plays the lead, with Randy Quaid and John Hurt for company. A fairly shocking insight into the Turkish legal system of the 70’s, a country that, prior to the credit crunch of 2007 and the resultant financial crisis, was desperate to join the European Union and was repeatedly met with concerns over not just its geographical position straddling the political divide between Europe and the Middle East, but also over its constant alleged, and widespread, human rights abuses.

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