If you've seen and heard about this movie, originally released in 1978, then you probably have heard about all the negative criticism that surrounds it, especially from the Turkish counterpart (with all due respect). Believe me, it's not how they say it is, and it's not what you think. It's more than that, even more important than all that superficial criticism.Well, Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) gets busted at the airport in Turkey for possessing hashish. He then makes a childish effort of trying to escape the police when asked to help them find the person who sold the drug to him. He gets busted again because of it, and is sent to a barbaric jail for four years. There he gets beaten up, and meets new friends Jimmy Booth (Randy Quaid) and Max (John Hurt), who also get beaten up later. Then the court appeals to the decision and he's sentenced to thirty years in prison. This was made as a reminder to all drug dealers so they know what would happen if they get busted. Knowing that he's going to die there, he tries everything within his reach to "take the midnight express", that is to escape.
"A greatly misunderstood movie"
Ok, so everybody in the audiences will ask themselves, why is he a hero when he's a simple punk trying to smuggle hashish? Why does this film accuse Turkish people of being brutal and barbaric? Well, in a way, I believe that Hayes is no angel, and we see that he grows up in jail. But still, we look at how people like us are treated in a horrific way. This film makes us reflect on how do we behave as humans, and up to what point should the punishment fit the crime? Everybody knows that if you do something wrong you must pay for it. Hayes at first we see, he accepts his guilt, but does that mean that he has to be punished gravely for something so worthless? Go to jail for 30 years for only 2 kilos of drug? I don't think so. And Iíll be damned if they throw me to jail just for smoking a cigarette!!
The story relies on the book written by Hayes. It stays truthful to it, thanks to Oliver Stone's adaptation and Alan Parker's riveting direction. Of course, it may exaggerates things a little bit for the effect in some parts, but the real message IS NOT: "Hate the Turks, they're barbaric" and some other shit like that. The message is that we as humans, whether or not we are criminal or not, must have at least A DECENT SENSE OF MERCY. Be human, accept your punishment, but we also must ask the punishers to punish within reason, to get what we deserve, and not go way over the limit, and punish us in a ridiculous and exaggerated way.
Now for those who think it's racist and portrays the Turks as barbaric people, let me tell you: IT'S NOT RACIST, thatís beside the point. Hell, I know for a fact that there's a bunch of people around the world that are just as sadistic as barbaric as the people portrayed in the film (Try the southern United States for example). You guys know that in the world, there is good people and bad people, always has always will. This film is excellent in the point that there are people there that play with the law, and modify it in their own way for their convenience, so they can punish you in a harsher way for a simple crime that instead of being a few years in prison, all of a sudden it turns into a life sentence. And for what? To make us live in fear? No way. Hayes tells everybody in the courtroom that they're pigs, and they are merciless. Sure, he says, "I hate your nation". He's saying that not because he's racist, but because thatís how he feels after being punished in an unjust way, and he thinks that because since everybody he has met behaves that way, then everybody in Turkey also behaves that way. Wouldn't you? I bet you would. The way they treat you contributes on the narrowing of your vision that since everybody you know behaves that way, you start believing that everybody in the whole place behaves the same way. That is not true and as I said, there are good people and there are also bad people. And this film depicts that in a magnificent way, it makes us think, "What do the laws stand for?" "Have I been punished the right way?" I certainly believe thatís what the film is trying to say, and thatís why this film is worth seeing.In the end, do yourself a favor, forget all the shit that they've been telling you and "walk into the incredible true experience of Billy Hayes, and bring all the courage you can!"
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originally posted: 12/07/00 15:52:36