Review by Rosie and MaceVindaloo
Director: Joe Johnston
Rating: Victory Star Destroyer
The promos said "Viggo Mortensen is still the king" -- and they were right! This movie is based on the life of Frank T. Hopkins (portrayed by Mortensen), famed pony express rider and long distance horseracer who was born of two conflicting worlds. His father was a white cavalry scout who fell in love with the daughter of a Sioux chief as the cavalry was pushing through the Indian nations. Luckily for Hopkins, he strongly resembled his white-man father, which made it easier to hide his heritage at a time when it was dangerous to be an Indian, in any way, shape or form.
Hopkins falls into despair and is nearly ruined by his guilt and shame for his part in the masacre at Wounded Knee. He was charged with the job of delivering the order to disarm the Sioux people at all cost. Unfortunately, there was a slight communication problem and the meaning of the message goes awry, with the over-zealous troupers executing the now-famous slaughter.
This shame is rekindled constantly to him as he ekes out a living a side act of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, which portrays a more popularized view of the events at Wounded Knee. Hopkins is paraded around with his horse, Hidalgo, billed as "the greatest long-distance horseracer in the world," and takes to abusing alcohol in order to live with himself.
Hopkins encounters the representative of an Arab sheik who sponsors an annual endurance race across the Arabian desert -- a race that has been run for a thousand years. The Sheik, who is part of the long Arabian culture of thoroughbred horse breders, owns a horse famous all through Arabia and the current champion of this race. Hopkins and his horse are challenged to either drop the moniker or to prove his superiority in the Arabian desert.
Hopkins is reluctant to accept the challenge, but then an old friend comes to tell him about the fate of the wild mustang herds -- the soul of the Sioux. Farmers and settler consider the wild horses to be vermin, and the mustangs would be rounded up and slaugtered unless someone could save them. The only way to preserve the mustangs was with money -- money that could be won in the Arabian desert challenge.
Once in Arabia, the cowboy team -- Hopkins and Hidalgo -- must undergo the most severe trials, cultural misunderstandings, less-than-honest competitors, those who seek to gain from a certain outcomes, his own struggle with his inner demons, a culture of pure horse breeders and their scorn at the mustang half-breed horse (and his half-breed rider), and of course, the desert itself. But who can Hopkins trust to help him? He only has his partner, Hidalgo. After all, the movie is called Hidalgo ...
Not all of us in our movie-going group are normally fans of westerns (to be honest, many of us simply swoon at Mortensen!), but this movie is so much more. Watching Hopkins gradually come to terms with himself as he journeys through the desert -- experiening a whole different culture that reveres the horse as much as he does -- is fascinating to watch. There is even a cameo performance from ILM -- watch for wondrous CGs! We plan to add this one to our extensive collection just as soon as the DVD comes out!
Movie poster image from http://hidalgo.movies.go.com
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