Hidalgo Movie ReviewReviewed by Jeffrey Rolo
If you take the thrilling high-adventure of Indiana Jones and combine it with the indomitable spirit of horses, Hidalgo will be the heartily satisfying result. Starring Viggo Mortensen (of Lord of the Rings fame) as Frank Hopkins, this action-packed film rises above the guilty pleasures of a simple popcorn movie to become an essential film for any action or horse fan.
The movie opens with an introduction to Frank Hopkins and his legendary painted Mustang Hidalgo, who is said to be the world's best endurance racehorse. When not taking part in rugged endurance races, Hopkins acts as a courier for the U.S. Military. One day he is asked to carry military orders to the cavalry at Wounded Knee, at which point he witnesses the massacre of Native Americans. This scene disturbs Hopkins since he is part Native American himself, and leads him towards drinking and starting his new occupation playing a silly role within Buffalo Bill's Wild West show.
On its surface this introduction may sound rather dark, but it's tastefully presented and not at all graphic. In fact it's necessary for the movie because it sets the foundation for Hopkin's exciting adventure as he heals his spirit and regains his confidence.
During one of his performances at Buffalo Bill's show a rich spectator from Arabia presents him a challenge: back up his strong claim that Hidalgo is the world's best endurance racehorse by participating in the 3000-mile race across the "Ocean of Fire," which spans the Arabian desert, Syria and Iraq. Although the prize of $100,000 is grand, the risks are equally great; many of the participants die due to the harsh elements, dehydration… and even the hands of their fellow competitors!
Although resistant to the idea at first, Hopkins eventually decides to take up the challenge, and thus begins an epic race where the duo faces intense prejudice against the hundred-plus other Arabic challengers, who firmly believe that allowing an "infidel" and his mixed horse into their traditional race is almost blasphemous.
Whereas the extreme elements would normally be enough of a hurdle to overcome, Hopkins and his steed must also face foul play and conspiracies from his fellow competitors, rescue the daughter of a powerful Sheik, deal with false accusations that could lead to dire consequences and much more!
Mortensen's performance is convincing; while his performance is much more subdued than we've come to expect based on his showing in Lord of the Rings, the low-key pace actually fits the character well. While Viggo does justice as the movie's hero, the show-stealer is arguably his paint horse Hidalgo, who exudes charisma and personality. We firmly believe the horse on-screen is an underdog with an indomitable spirit capable of meeting the challenges laid before him.
There is very little bloodshed in this movie, and the hero is honorable and moral throughout, never succumbing to the temptations of seduction, bribery or cheating. Although packed with action, this movie harks back to a time where a hero was clearly honorable and entertainment was clean enough to be shared by the entire family.
Hidalgo is a rousing movie that should please any action fan, but it will definitely hold a special appeal for horse lovers due to its focus on Hidalgo as well as the multitude of majestic Arabians he must compete against. Without reservation I can say Hidalgo is the perfect horse-oriented action movie for both young and old.