As the story goes, Hidalgo was considered a long shot to win the race because he was a Mustang, in a race of faster, stronger Arabians. Hidalgo appealed to a wealthy Sheik (Omar Sharif) who brought the horse and its legendary rider Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) from the United States halfway across the world to participate. Despite a potential claim for fame and fortune, Frank is participating for entirely personal reasons. Frank wants to help his half-blood Indian tribe buy back land from the U.S. government that they can use to raise their horses.
Director Joe Johnston's vision on-screen is much more complicated than the history would suggest. While traveling across the Arabian Desert, Frank and Hidalgo run into numerous renegade Bedouin riders and their owners who will stop at nothing to prevent the infidel rider from completing the race. The pair becomes the target of so many rebels that it is difficult to keep track of them all. In fact, there is so little information we're privy to about the other riders, even if we could tell them apart, we'd be hard pressed to care anyhow.
The same can be said for Frank and Hidalgo. Because we're given very few details about Frank, it's tough to commit to his cause. Frank says very little in his journey across the desert and when he does, it's only to Hidalgo. (I kept hoping Hidalgo would pull a Mr. Ed and talk back.) Except for a moment where Hidalgo gets injured, the race hardly appears to affect the pair. As the scenes transpire across their desert journey, Frank looks just as rested as he did at the beginning of the race, and Hidalgo makes a miraculous recovery from his injury in time for a final sprint to the finish line.
With all of its indistinguishable characters, Hidalgo just doesn't work in its present form. This may add credence to all the rumors that the real Frank T. Hopkins is a fraud, and that this race never took place. Regardless, it is one of the most beautifully photographed movies in recent memory. There is such a richness and saturation to the colors of Shelly Johnson's cinematography that Hidalgo is intoxicating to watch.
It's just too bad that these striking elements are wasted in what could have been a modern day epic adventure along the same lines as Dances with Wolves. What we have instead is an excruciatingly long 133 minute rough-cut with little truth and little meat between the bones.
The DVD adds two featurettes about the film, one a traditional making-of flick, one a historical piece (DVD-ROM only) about the Spanish Mustangs.
Ride, Sally, ride.
Run time: 136 mins
In Theaters: Friday 5th March 2004
Box Office USA: $67.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $108.1M
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures, Casey Silver Productions, Dune Films
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 84
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Joe Johnston
Producer: Casey Silver
Screenwriter: John Fusco
Starring: Viggo Mortensen as Frank Hopkins, Zuleikha Robinson as Jazira, Omar Sharif as Sheikh Riyadh, Adam Alexi-Malle as Aziz, Louise Lombard as Lady Anne Davenport, Silas Carson as Katib, Harsh Nayyar as Yusef, C. Thomas Howell as Preston Webb, J.K. Simmons as Buffalo Bill Cody, Adoni Maropis as Sakr, Joshua Wolf Coleman as The Kurd, Saïd Taghmaoui as Prince Bin Al Reeh, Victor Talmadge as Rau Rasmussen, Peter Mensah as Jaffa, Franky Mwangi as Slave Boy, Floyd Red Crow Westerman as Chief Eagle Horn (as Floyd Red Crow Westerman)
One of the strongest action thrillers in recent years, this gripping movie cleverly casts actors...
Meryl Streep is having so much fun playing an ageing rocker that the audience only...
Like James Bond, wilfully anonymous driver Frank Martin is reborn as a new actor without...
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...