It is often said that the punishment should fit the crime. As a concept, that makes total and complete sense. The realities of the statement however don't always quite match up. One person's idea of the correct punishment for a crime isn't necessarily another's; one nation's concept is sometimes radically different from another's. It can all depend on the populace, the time period, the manner in which the law was broken, and an infinite number of other factors. Consequently, it can be incredibly difficult for people in one part of the world to properly assess punishments handed out in another part of the world.
The 1978 film Midnight Express is a brilliant movie, well told, well acted, well shot, and absolutely riveting. Where the film utterly fails is that it makes no attempt at understanding the country, prisons, and laws the film rails against.
Based on a true story, the Alan Parker (Mississippi Burning) directed film follows Billy Hayes (Brad Davis, Chariots of Fire) as he attempts to smuggle two kilograms of hashish out of Turkey in 1970. Hayes unfortunately timed his attempt to just follow some airplane hijackings and tough talk from Richard Nixon. It led to the airport being on high alert and Hayes being caught.
After serving the vast majority of his initial four year and two month sentence, a prosecutorial appeal changes his sentence to 30 years. For Hayes, who has already suffered the indignity of life in a Turkish prison for almost four years, the new sentence is too much to take, and he quickly finds his prison life spiraling out of control. The pain and disbelief and hope Davis exhibits as Hayes throughout the film is one of the factors that really make the piece work. The performance is an outstanding one and earned Davis a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Acting Debut – Male.
Davis' costars are equally brilliant, with Irene Miracle (Billy's girlfriend, Susan) also earning a Golden Globe (Best Motion Picture Acting Debut – Female), and John Hurt, who plays a fellow inmate, a Golden Globe win and an Oscar Nomination (supporting actor, both).