March 16, 2004 > Hidalgo
by Jeremy Inman
Hidalgo is one part Indiana Jones, one part Seabiscuit, and a healthy dose of good old, all-American, cowboy gun slinger. Hidalgo is based on the real life tale of Frank Hopkins, a Pony Express Courier, who travels to Saudi Arabia to compete with his wild mustang Hidalgo in a race across a massive desert. Frank and Hidalgo must compete against 300 horses, all purebred and professionally trained while combating various obstacles of the desolate and foreign wasteland. On top of everything else, Frank must avoid the traps of the treacherous competitors and bands of marauders that roam the deserts.
Hidalgo is a movie about many things. First and foremost, it's an action adventure that harkens back to the time of classics like Indiana Jones, where one man, faces impossible odds with nothing but his horse and pistol at his side. The old-school approach to action in Hidalgo is a welcome break from the car crashes of today's action movies. Viggo Mortensen, fresh from his role as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, finds himself right at home in Hopkins' boots.
Hopkins is a flawed but determined man of honor who seeks to test himself and his horse in the great race across the desert. This role is a good move for Mortensen after the Lord of the Rings, playing a less serious, more straightforward character than in the trilogy. The audience can just lighten up and have fun with him, which is really what Hidalgo is all about.
Hidalgo is by no means an artsy film. More than anything, it's just an amazing adventure and something out of the ordinary to entertain an audience that has recently been subject to a torrent of black leather trench coats or form-fitting spandex suits.
More than just action, Hidalgo has several meaningful subplots and messages. As the race is a multi-cultural event, there are many underlying messages of tolerance and acceptance. Many correlations and parallels are made between Hopkins, who is half Native-American and therefore looked down upon, and Jazira, the daughter of a wealthy Saudi Arabian leader who defies cultural norms; both of them must conceal their true identities to be considered acceptable.
Hidalgo is a welcome change from recent action movies that is worthy of its ticket price.