Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Written by Oliver Stone
Directed by Alan Parker
Starring Brad Davis, Randy Quaid and John Hurt

Most often, when I venture into cinema’s past, I am inexplicably hesitant but then mostly surprised by what I’ve been missing all this time. MIDNIGHT EXPRESS won two Oscars (one of which went to screenwriter, Oliver Stone) and was heralded as director, Alan Parker’s greatest achievement. It was nominated for four other Oscars, including Best Picture and Director. Watching it now though, more than 30 years after it was made, I cannot see how MIDNIGHT EXPRESS managed to wow anyone at all. While there are moments that are both harrowing and moving, the whole is at times held back by poor acting and almost laughable melodrama. Some productions just don’t age as well as others.

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, which refers to an escape from prison, is the true-life account of Billy Hayes, a young American who was caught smuggling hashish as he was leaving Istanbul. Stripped naked and placed in the center of a room while the arresting officers speak loudly all around him in a language he doesn’t understand and with no knowledge as to how long he will be there or what will happen to him is incredibly frightening a concept but yet Hayes (played very thinly by Brad Davis) shows no fear. It could be American naiveté or ignorance of international law but as the film goes on and the scenarios Hayes finds himself in get more horrific, it becomes clear that Davis doesn’t have the depth to carry this role nor this film. The only good he brings is a pretty face and body that Parker sexualizes whenever he can.

Packaged in a collector’s book, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS boasts a feature commentary with Parker, “The Making of Midnight Express” (which is a throwaway promotional piece from the period) and some incredibly tedious interviews with different production staff. The whole thing will have you wanting to pull off your own midnight express from the prison it creates.




Matt Belanger said...

I couldn't agree more. Midnight Express is not only a lame DVD, but a very disappointing movie. Not really sure how it could have been called a classic. The whole movie relies on the performance of the main actor which I found to be forgettable.

Black Sheep said...

I've already heard from two other people who had the complete opposite experience with this film. I did expect something really harrowing and moving and found that it felt false most of the time. If you thought the lead was bad in this, you should see him in "Querelle" - he's a flighty, gay sailor in that one!