Hidalgo (2004)

hidalgo IMDb

By most measures Hidalgo is a good movie. Just good, not great. I suppose not every movie needs to be spectacular, but I expected a little more from a horse racing epic starring Viggo Mortensen. The story promises so much, yet delivers so little.

If I were basing my review on visuals alone Hidalgo would get an A rating. I always love sweeping shots of the desert, and this film delivers in spades. This is also about a horse race, so I will be awarding it some points for the copious scenes featuring horses. Sometimes I am a walking female stereotype, and when it comes to my love of horses I definitely fit the cliche. But can visuals alone really sell a movie? Unfortunately, no.

Hidalgo‘s story is a little too by-the-book for my taste. It is utterly predictable. Not that it’s not enjoyable to watch, it’s just that I feel like I’ve seen this movie before (and done better). It also seems like the filmmakers are trying to shove too many “lessons” into the film. There are points made about the Wounded Knee massacre, racism, the treatment women in Islamic culture, slavery. There’s a lot going on, but the movie doesn’t really delve into any of them in a meaningful way. It’s all very superficial.

All told Hidalgo is a rather enjoyable way to spend an hour and forty-five minutes. Don’t expect too much– just focus on the relationship between man and his horse. The rest is dispensable.

Rating: C

The best way to describe this movie is an average ‘C’ student. It is not a bad film, but certainly not a good one either. Just an average student putting in the effort required to get ahead, but nothing more.

Hidalgo stars Viggo Mortenson, trying to capitalise on his Lord of the Rings fame, as Frank Hopkins. A down and out cowboy who happens to be able to tame the fastest horse around. He hotfoots it over to Arabia to participate in a famous horse race with his fabulous horse named Hidalgo (Hey! That’s the title of the movie!). Nobody really wants this American to win their prestigious horse race so plenty of people are out to stop him. His only ally seems to be a strange princess (Zuleikha Robinson), who wants Aragorn to win the race because her Sheik father (Omar Shariff) has promised her hand in marriage to the victor, something she knows Frank would refuse. Frank has to outsmart the Arabian world with his unruly horse if he has any hope of winning this race, or even coming home alive.

Like I said, this is an average film. It’s not terrible, far from it. It’s just not that great. There’s nothing I can say about it that I really didn’t like, but there’s also nothing I can say that I loved. I thought this was an interesting Lord of the Rings follow up for Mortenson. It is so different from those films, but still similar too. In the end, this wasn’t the career jump start he expected and Viggo has never been seen in a high profile leading man role since this film, whether that’s his choosing or because no studio will let him headline a film anymore is anyone’s guess.

You can’t get more average than this film. It is just ok, nothing more, nothing less.

Rating: C

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