Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 2004. Touchstone Pictures, Casey Silver Productions, Dune Films. Screenplay by John Fusco. Cinematography by Shelly Johnson. Produced by Casey Silver. Music by James Newton Howard. Production Design by Barry Robison. Costume Design by Jeffrey Kurland. Film Editing by Robert Dalva.
Inspired by the supposedly true story of Frank Hopkins (most historians can’t agree on just how much of it is fiction), the famous cowboy who witnessed the massacre at Wounded Knee and later rode with Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley in their Wild West show. When Hopkins’ mustang horse Hidalgo is proclaimed the greatest animal of its kind in the world, it inspires the ire of a Middle Eastern sheik (Omar Sharif) who insists that Hopkins and his horse compete in an ages-old race across the Arabian desert. Hopkins agrees to go, and along the way experiences challenges and adventures of only the most ridiculously incredible nature. What could have been an enjoyable, almost tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Tall Tale-storytelling of old is instead put across as a flat, matter-of-fact action film with no sense of self-awareness or irony. What results is a collection of cliched hero moments (complete with swelling music) that conveniently pit the most American symbol of all (the cowboy) against a crowd of Iraqis (proclaiming their land as Iraq long before it was actually called that) and beating them at their own game thanks to his good ole white boy gumption. Viggo Mortensen does a great job of being appropriately grizzled, but a little more humour in the screenplay would have made his performance seem less stiff.