DVD Reviews | Mar 4th, 2005

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Starring Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson, Louise Lombard, Adam Alexi-Malle, Sad Taghmaoui, Silas Carson, Harsh Nayyar, J.K. Simmons, Adoni Maropis, Peter Mensah, Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman, and a bunch of horses
Written By: John Fusco
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Buy on Amazon.com

I saw Hidalgo in the theaters and thought it was a good movie but kind of long and could have been better. After seeing it a second time, the film was more enjoyable.

Hidalgo is based on a true story about Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) and his mustang horse, Hidalgo. They compete in long distance endurance races across the country. That’s what they are known for. Frank starts to work for Buffalo Bill Cody (J.K Simmons) in his wild west show and is asked to compete in a race over in the Middle East. It’s a race called “Ocean of Fire” and it’s legendary. It’s 3,000 miles long across the Arabian Desert and it drives most riders mad and usually the horses kick the bucket too. I know I wouldn’t be able to do it. So Frank accepts the challenge and he becomes the first American to compete in the grueling race. Along the way, he battles sandstorms and other really competitive riders, helps the Sheikhs’ daughter from being killed from an evil relative, and escapes death several times.

I’m not sure why I didn’t like the movie as much as the first time, maybe I felt it was too long (still think it’s 15 minutes too long) or they killed off all the cool characters. Just when I started to like a certain character, oops they killed him. But after watching the film again, I really like it. Maybe I knew what to expect from it this time. The film has a lot of great qualities to it. Good acting, funny moments, cool action scenes, some romance, beautiful scenery, and an excellent film score. I just love movies about the old west, and horses. Screenwriter John Fusco, who wrote this, also wrote Young Guns I & II and I love those movies (Viggo was in Young Guns II by the way). When watching these type of movies, I’m just in awe of the landscapes and the imagery that comes out of these type of movies. I especially love the ending of the movie, when it’s in the midwest and you see all the mustangs running freely. Makes me want to drop everything i’m doing and move out to Montana or something and be a cowboy haha. But City Slickers makes me feel the same way too. Anyway, back to the movie. I think Viggo is great as Frank T. Hopkins and has good chemistry with the horse. Hey, that’s hard to do with an animal! Hidalgo is quite the actor too. I actually hope Viggo does more western movies because I think he’s fit for those type of roles. I liked how he spoke Native American a lot. But I think Viggo is really into their culture so he probably suggested using the language a lot in the film. Actually there was a lot of subtitles in the film, and I think that’s a good idea because i’d rather see people speaking in their native tongue then everyone speaking American. Omar Sharif was great as the Sheikh, and I kind of wish he does more work over in America. He just had this certain charm to his character. J.K. Simmons was cool as Buffalo Bill. I thought for a moment he looked like Raul Julia but he passed away years ago. I forgot about that.

My favorite scene in the movie is when Frank has to rescue the daughter of the Sheikh, and it’s just great swashbuckling fun. The servant to Jazira was pretty badass in those scenes. I wish I saw more of him fighting. Other scenes I enjoyed were mostly of the race. The sandstorm and bug attack was exciting to watch. It felt like scenes from the Mummy a little.
Some of the CGI was good, but the only time I had a problem with it was the CGI cougars. They just didn’t look good. The movement of the animation seemed to fast and then it looked too unrealistic. I know they are fast creatures but it just didn’t look real ok! Now as far as the “based on a true story” part comes in, I don’t really care if it’s true or not, it a story is interesting and exciting to watch, i’m going to watch it. Some say Frank T. Hopkins told tall tales and some say he didn’t, so who knows. If there’s anything I learned from watching movies (Big Fish is a good example), an exaggerated story is more interesting than the truth. Sure, he probably raced in the Ocean of Fire, but i’m sure a lot of the stuff in this film actually happened or not as extreme. But who would want to watch that?

I was kind of disappointed with the extras. I was hoping there would be a lot of stuff but there’s only 2 extras on the disc. “Sand & Celluloid” is a 9 minute piece about the making of the movie. While it covers a lot of ground, I would have liked to see how the movie was made in-depth. Like how they did certain scenes like the Races, or the action scenes. Some interesting stuff in that featurette like they made that one village where the Katib lived into Mud. The whole thing was made out of mud and some other material. Plus they said the opening race scene was really tough to shoot because the wind was unbearable. The horses had a tough time dealing with it because they weren’t used to it, and also the cameras would have sand particles burning into the lenses. There’s a small easter egg in the deleted scenes section of the DVD. You click on the Native American symbol and it’s a 3 minute piece with Native Americans telling stories of Frank T. Hopkins and Hidalgo, and Viggo also talks about horses a little. You also get to see some of Viggo Mortensen’s photography, which is really excellent by the way.

The other extra you have to watch on your DVD-rom which is really annoying. Why can’t you just put everything on there so we can watch it on our DVD player and not have to stop the DVD and put it onto our computer? That extra was really interesting to watch because it was all about the history of the mustang horses and how there is a big preservation society for them since they are still considered wild animals. There’s also still endurance races with horses but they are more controlled now and only like 100 miles long. You can’t take a knife to horse if the animal falls down and breaks a leg. That extra also featured Viggo reading Frank T. Hopkins’ letters about the mustang horses and his races.

Overall, the movie is really fun to watch but there is some slow scenes that bog down the film but overall, definitely check it out when this gets released if you like these type of movies.

– “Sand & Celluloid” Making-Of Featurette
– A behind-the-scenes look at the special effects and the adventure of making Hidalgo
– “America’s First Horse” Enhanced Computer Feature
– Venture beyond the movie to the incredible story of Hidalgo’s ancestors, the Spanish Mustangs
– THX Certified

ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 CC
SPANISH: Dolby Digital Stereo
FRENCH: Dolby Digital Stereo

Widescreen 2.35:1 Color (Anamorphic)


Favorite Scenes: Opening/Teaching Respect, Journey Begins, Sandstorm!, Rescue, Paid in Full
Rating: –Select–
Running Time: 136 minutes
Extras Rating:
Overall Rating: