March 13, 2004


HidalgoThe movie named for a horse and marketed for a movie star. Viggo Mortensen stars as Frank Hopkins, a cowboy and US Army courier in the 1890s. While the movie claims to be based on a true story, more reliable sources indicate that while Frank Hopkins was a real person, there's a good chance his skills leaned more towards the telling of tall tales than long-distance horse racing. But we're talking about a movie here.

Hopkins is challenged out of a mid-life complacency into travelling to Saudi Arabia to compete in a (fictional) 3,000 mile race across the Arabian desert. He faces ridicule for the parentage of his wild Mustang from the owners and riders of the thoroughbred competitors. He makes friends with the Sheik (played disarmingly by the great Omar Sharif) and his daughter (the striking Zuleikha Robinson). Competes with the aggressive Lady Anne Davenport (Louise Lombard) and the evil Prince Bin Al Reeh (Sad Taghmaoui). The plot is pure Saturday movie serial. The execution does justice to the genre with lots of characters to cheer and boo, and seldom a question of which is the appropriate response.

I suspect that had Mr. Mortensen not just come off the biggest movie event of all time with his starring role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the movie might be a bit different. The character of Frank Hopkins is most interesting when he's interacting with his horse, Hidalgo, but it feels like the perspective of the film got dragged towards its popular star and away from its title character. Still, Mortensen is good enough to stand the scrutiny, and the horse is good enough to steal the occasional scene.

Posted by jeffy at March 13, 2004 03:57 PM

Thanks. I confess I was curious about this one only because I watched all the LOTR; otherwise I probably wouldn't have any idea who Mortensen is. The historical aspect intrigued me too and the trailer seemed to market it to highlight the prejudice Hidalgo and his horse faced for their respective heritages: how much was fiction? Thanks for your reviews - I liked all the ones you posted today.

Posted by: Julie at March 13, 2004 10:32 PM

Thanks for the comment, Julie.

Anita Rowland had a link to a site about Frank Hopkins that talks about the history of the story.

I was basing my skepticism on a friend's recollection of seeing something about him on the history channel.

Posted by: jeffy at March 15, 2004 04:01 PM

I just saw Hidalgo myself last night and I was not much impressed. It matters not the least to me whether the story is true. It matters if it's a good story. While the movie had its good moments, especially involving that marvelous horse, I found it completely predictable and not a little silly. I wasn't overly impressed with Mortenson who seems to have a very impassive and unexpressive face. A definite drawback for an actor one would have thought. (And it's very naughty of me but I couldn't help noticing just how very well those pants fit him.) I enjoyed the movie while I was watching it, but it isn't something I'm likely to remember fondly or ever watch again. There's just no there there.

MKK--amused and a bit taken aback to discover she's a celebrity

Posted by: Mary Kay at March 21, 2004 12:25 AM