Midnight Express (1978)

(On TV, September 2017) If being tortured sounds like your idea of a great time, then rush to see Midnight Express as soon as possible. If not, well … never mind. The somewhat-true story of an American being imprisoned in Turkey after being caught smuggling drugs, Midnight Express aims to be a comprehensively awful depiction of a young man imprisoned in inhumane conditions. It really pulls no punches, and seemingly delights in making both protagonist and audiences miserable for as long as possible. All the while asking us to sympathize with an avowed drug smuggler. Alan Parker directs an Oliver Stone script, and the two-hour result feels much longer than it has any right to be. If you suspect that I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the experience, you’d be right—After doing my best to stay within the film for a while, I ended up escaping it by working on something else while the rest of the movie played along, glancing up at the screen at periodic intervals but not really being willing to invest myself any further in the story. Whether this counts as a success for the film should be obvious. Given the dour tone of much of the movie, the somewhat happy ending is a bit of a surprise.

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