He’s back in the saddle again. Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) saddles up a new horse as he rides into the adventure epic, “Hidalgo”.
Mortensen plays real-life legend Frank Hopkins, a long distance horse racer and dispatcher who ends up washed up and in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Hopkins gets the challenge of a lifetime when a Sheik (Omar Sharif) sends for him to enter the epic 3,000 mile race across the Arabian Desert. The Sheik urges Frank to prove his claim that he is the best long distance racer in the world. Can Frank and his beloved horse Hidalgo survive such a challenge in a far off land? Can they endure the infamous Ocean of Fire and live to tell the tale? This stubborn cowboy sure hopes so.
“Hidalgo” is great escapist entertainment as Frank’s adventures in Arabia are plenty and fun to behold.
Mortensen is stern and steadfast as the cowboy hero and there is a lot in common here to his beloved portrayal of Aragorn. Mortensen maybe a laid back actor but his simpler portrayal of Frank does show he can be an audience favorite.
It is nice to Omar Sharif return to the silver screen and it was kind of funny seeing the cameo from C. Thomas Howell. The female leads in the film match Mortensen word for word but I never found captivating or enthralling. That is kind of a shame since it would have been nice to see what Mortensen was like next to a strong female lead character.
Hidalgo’s director Joe Johnston has always been a favorite of mine. The man has directed such projects as “Honey I Shrunk the Kids“, “The Rocketeer“, “Jumanji” and “October Sky“. Johnston has also taken up the reigns of the “Jurassic Park” franchise from Steven Spielberg where he directed “Jurassic Park 3” and is slated to directed “Jurassic 4”.
Johnston has always had a certain style for his films. His unique use of music and grand adventure scenes have always been a staple. “Hidalgo” has a lot of elements that are staples of a Joe Johnston film and it is amazing how they bring a lot more to the film. He has always been a great audience pleaser and Hidalgo is no different.
I liked a lot of Johnston’s panoramic and silhouette shots of Viggo and horse. I liked how he was able to bring life to the most lifeless of places. There are so many of those kinds of scenes in this film.
The film also reminded me some of those old Sheik love stories starring Rudolph Valentino and the film adaptations of the Arabian Knights. It was almost like one of those films with a Gary Cooper or mellower Charles Brosnan styled cowboy trapped inside. It was a lot of fun seeing the genres mix it up.
My only problem with the film is that it feels quite long. The film’s story is a simple one spread across a 3,000 mile race. There really is no depth to sustain the film’s exotic adventure.
This adventure film won’t win any awards or challenge us in anyway but like the film’s central character it is steadfast, true to itself and a joy to watch.
4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.