With a strange title like Hidalgo, you might be wondering what kind of movie this is. The answer is simple: this is what an adventure movie should look like. Well, an adventure/action movie. And don’t take that look like too literally, Hidalgo features a well-written story, developed characters, and a real sense of adventure. It’s reminiscent of those old adventure movies, without fancy CGI or monsters out to get our heroes. I can only think of Lawrence of Arabia as a similar movie, although this is a much lighter affair.
The story follows Frank Hopkins, a Pony Express courier, who travels to Arabia do enter a dangerous race with his horse Hidalgo. Although the movie is a bit longer (136 min), it is not boring for one second. Viggo Mortensen is just captivating in his performance of Frank Hopkins, and with the support of Omar Sharif, they carry the movie to the end. Recruited off the set of Lord of the Rings, he was a perfect fit for Hopkins. He even bought his horse T.J. after the shooting was over.
Very engaging and beautiful sights of the desert and eastern culture were a sight for sore eyes after all those crappy adventure movies with poor cinematography. With Hidalgo, you can feel the vastness of the land and that open road feeling, similar to movies about driving, only old school. It’s just so damn immersive that after it’s over you’ll want to continue your journey through the harsh land and welcoming oasis.
While most of the movie takes place overseas, it has a strong western vibe. Set in 1890, it features a sobering sub-plot involving Native Americans and their plights albeit pretty short. The same thing happens after Hopkins arrives in Arabia seeing chained slaves. This unfair and pretty horrid reality lurks behind the adventurous veneer of Hidalgo giving it a sense of authenticity. It also makes it a movie that will not be cringy after fifty years like some other adventure movies.
Production values are high, so do not mistake this movie for some weekend Hallmark blunder. With so many good elements it could have been only this good, and the juicy part is that it all really happened. Well, let’s say it really happened since the real Hopkins did have a tendency to make shit up. So a great weekend/Sunday movie, to relax and immerse yourself in the 1890 atmosphere, where men where rough and times were hard. Enjoy.
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Zuleikha Robinson, Omar Sharif, J.K. Simmons, Victor Talmadge, Louise Lombard
Fun Facts: The filming of the final horse scene took place in Browning, Montana. It’s one hell of scene involving over 550 different horses. The horses all came from different owners, so to tell them apart, their hooves were branded.