If any Turk had approached me immediately after I first saw this film, I would probably have punched him in the face, such was the impact of its relentless portrayal of Turkish prison guards as vicious, mindless sadists. With hindsight I – and certainly the Turks – would now claim that the story, based on fact, written by Oliver Stone and directed by Alan Parker, was wildly over the top. Even Billy Hayes, the man whose tale it tells, says the same. Yet it’s still a powerfully gripping, deeply disturbing version of what happened to Hayes (Brad Davis), convicted of hashish smuggling in Turkey in 1970. Indeed, it’s so convincingly done that Stone won an Oscar. The title is prison slang for escaping, which is what Hayes did when his original sentence of four years was extended to 30. It’s riveting stuff but, my word, you need a strong stomach to watch it.
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