Midnight Express

  • Directors: Alan Parker
  • Producers: Alan Marshall, David Puttnam
  • Writers: Billy Hayes, William Hoffer, Oliver Stone
  • Genres: Biography, Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Brad Davis, Randy Quaid, John Hurt, Paul L Smith, Irene Miracle

On October 6, 1970, after a stay in Istanbul, a US citizen named Billy Hayes is arrested by Turkish police, on high alert due to fear of terrorist attacks, as he is about to fly out of the country with his girlfriend. After being found with several bricks of hashish taped to his body – about two kilograms in total – he is arrested. After a while, a shadowy American arrives. He translates for Billy. The police ask where Billy bought the hash. Billy tells them that he bought it from a cab driver and offers to help the police track him down in exchange for his release. He goes with the police to a local market and points the cab driver out but while the police go to arrest the cabbie, Billy makes a run for it. He gets cornered in a building and is recaptured by the mysterious American. Billy is sentenced to four years and two months’ imprisonment on the charge of drug possession. He is sent to SaÄŸmalcılar prison (closed in 2008) to serve out his sentence. In the remand centre, he meets and befriends other Western prisoners. In 1974, after a prosecution appeal (who originally wished to have Hayes found guilty of smuggling and not possession), his original sentence is overturned by the Turkish High Court in Ankara and he is ordered to serve a 30-year term for his crime. His stay becomes a living hell: terrifying and unbearable scenes of physical and mental torture follow one another, where bribery, violence and insanity rule the prison.

In 1975, Susan comes to see Billy and is devastated at what the guards have done to him. After being committed to the prison’s insane asylum, Billy again tries to escape, this time by attempting to bribe the head guard, who then takes him to the sanitarium, intending to rape him. Billy ends up killing the guard. He then puts on an officer’s uniform and manages his escape by walking out of the front door. From the epilogue, it is explained that on the night of October 4, 1975 he successfully crossed the border to Greece, and arrived home three weeks later.

Chariots of Fire

  • Directors: Hugh Hudson
  • Producers: David Puttnam, Jake Eberts, Dodi Fayed, James Crawford
  • Writers: Colin Welland
  • Genres: Drama, History, Sport
  • Actors: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige

The movie is based on the true story of two British athletes competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Englishman Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), who is Jewish, overcomes anti-Semitism and class prejudice in order to compete against the “Flying Scotsman”, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), in the 100 metre race.

In 1919, Abrahams enters Cambridge University. He attempts and succeeds at the Trinity Great Court run, which involves running around the court before the clock finishes striking 12. Meanwhile, Liddell sees running as a way of glorifying God before travelling to China to work as a missionary. He represents Scotland against Ireland in a race, and preaches a sermon on “Life as a race” afterwards.

At their first meeting, Liddell shakes Abrahams’ hand to wish him well, then beats him in a race. Abrahams takes it badly, but Sam Mussabini (Ian Holm), a professional trainer who he had approached earlier, offers to take him on to improve his technique. However, this attracts criticism from the college masters because they are not sympathetic to a Jewish student representing the college. They allege it is ungentlemanly and unsportsmanlike for an amateur athlete seeking to compete in the Olympics to employ a professional coach, but Abrahams realizes that is cover for their anti-Semitism and class entitlement, and dismisses their concern.

Abrahams competes in the 100 metre sprint and wins. Now he can get on with his life and reconcile with his girlfriend whom he has neglected for the sake of the running. Liddell himself defeats the American favourites in the 400 metres, in spite of their coach’s remarks to them minimizing his chances. He then goes on to do his missionary work in China.

The Killing Fields

  • Directors:
  • Producers: David Puttnam
  • Writers: Bruce Robinson
  • Genres: Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Sam Waterston, John Malkovich, Haing S Ngor, Julian Sands

The film opens in May 1973 in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. The Cambodian national army is fighting a civil war with the communist Khmer Rouge (KR), a result of the Vietnam War overspilling that country’s borders. Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist and interpreter for New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg, awaits the arrival of Schanberg at the Phnom Penh airport when he leaves suddenly. Schanberg arrives after his flight is delayed for three hours and, irritated that Pran is not at the airport, takes a cab to his hotel. Pran meets Schanberg later and tells him that an incident has occurred in a town, Neak Leung; allegedly, an American B-52 has bombed the town by mistake.

Schanberg and Pran try to find transport to the site. Pran is able to sneak himself and Sydney onto a police boat that takes them to Neak Leung. When they arrive, they find that the town has indeed been bombed and hundreds have been killed, with many more wounded, including women and children. Schanberg and Pran are arrested when they try to photograph the execution of two KR operatives by Cambodian army officers. They are eventually released and Schanberg is furious when the international press corps arrives with the US Army to report a “sanitised” version of the story.

In the confusion, Pran escapes with four other prisoners and they begin a long trek through the jungle with Phat’s young son. The group later splits and three of them head in a different direction; Pran continues following the map with one of them. However, Pran’s companion steps on a hidden land mine while holding the child. Though Pran pleads with the man to give him the child, the mine goes off, killing them both. Pran mourns for a time and continues on. One day he crests a mountain and sees a Red Cross camp near the border of Thailand. The scene shifts to Schanberg calling Pran’s family with the news that Pran is alive and safe. Soon after, Schanberg travels to the Red Cross camp and is reunited with Pran. He asks Pran “Do you forgive me?” Pran answers, with a smile, “Nothing to forgive, Sydney, nothing to forgive.” The two embrace. The scene is set to the song “Imagine” by John Lennon.