"Hidalgo" ... full of dazzling visuals.
IT IS a deeply romantic film and not because it is a man-woman story. From the sweep of the desolate snow-laden terrain of Montana and Wyoming to the hot, shimmering sands of the Arabian desert, to the leathery, laconic man on a horse called Hidalgo, the film is utterly appealing thanks to its dazzling visuals and the bond between man and beast.
As a movie, Touchstone Pictures' "Hidalgo" is an adventure tale (written by John Fusco after several years of research) based on the life of Frank T Hopkins, the 19th century equestrian hero and soldier who died in 1951 at the age of 86. Hidalgo was his best friend. The wild, loyal Spanish mustang was even considered divine. Hopkins called him Little Brother and Hidalgo accompanied him on all his adventures.Hopkins (played with great aplomb by Viggo Mortensen devilishly handsome, with a laid back, unruffled quality that really suits the cowboy image here) a cowboy, sharpshooter, half Indian-half white, worked as a courier for the US Cavalry.
He witnesses the brutal massacre of the Sioux Indians at Wounded Creek in 1890, which traumatises and haunts him. He ends up touring the country as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. The scenes, incidentally, are very similar to that of the opening ones in "The Last Samurai," where the character played by Cruise is also disillusioned with life. This is when Frank and Hidalgo are challenged to a Grand Prix of horse racing, The Ocean Of Fire a gruelling 3000-mile trek across the treacherous sands of the Arabian Desert, with a huge prize money as incentive. And the challenge here is that Hidalgo with its mixed ancestry, is no thoroughbred like the ones that must be raced against the rarest thoroughbred Arab horses!
Frank hesitates, but only momentarily. Soon he is riding his horse up on the gangplank of a ship, where the elegant Lady Davenport (Louise Lombard), owner of a rival horse, eyes him with more than professional interest. Frank waves goodbye to the Statue Of Liberty and friends, Annie Oakley (Elizabeth Berridge), Buffalo Bill (J.T Simmons) and Chief Eagle Horn (Floyd Red Crow Westerman) and heads for Arabia for the Ocean Of Fire survival race.
Then there are other challenges as well. Frank as the `infidel' faces castration at the hands of the host, Sheikh Riyadh (Omar Sharif) after he is caught talking to the rebellious Jazira (Zuleikha Robinson), the Sheikh's daughter and a horsewoman who is refused the opportunities to ride.
Jazira has risked everything by being fascinated by the brave American outcast.
See "Hidalgo" on the big screen and you will be rewarded by vistas of horses, hooves pounding against snow-hardened ground, desert storms (computer generated no doubt, but awesome nonetheless), leopards racing towards the camera, beautiful sweeping skylines and plains guaranteed to take your breath away!
Viggo is star stuff laconic, but full of values and grace, with which he tackles his challenges. It is a pleasure to see Omar Sharif after a long time. Director Joe Johnston has managed to balance the action and the silences with dexterity. Besides, he has made Hidalgo the horse such a loyal and loving friend you might want to go and see the film just for that!
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