Hidalgo is based on the story of famed endurance rider Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) and his legendary Spanish mustang for which the film is named. The movie begins in 1890 when Hopkins is serving as a dispatch rider for the U.S. military while distance racing on the side. The life of this part Sioux Indian cowboy becomes deeply scarred after he unwittingly allows the massacre of a Sioux Indian tribe at Wounded Knee. Months later, while working as a cowboy clown in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, he is invited by an Arabian Sheikh (Omar Sharif) to participate in The Ocean of Fire, an annual 3,000-mile horse race across the Arabian Desert. Besides the prize money and personal honor, the outcome would determine whether Hopkins and his reputed mixed-blood mustang could measure up against the famed Bedouin riders and their purebred Arabian stallions.
Directed by Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park 3, Jumanji), Hidalgo seems to have all the right ingredients. Riding off the enormous popularity of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it's great to see Aragorn already back in the saddle; naturally, Mortensen does most of his own riding in the film. Filmed on location in Morocco (and partly in California), the cinematography is often beautiful, occasionally breathtaking; you can't help but be reminded of Lawrence of Arabia at times. Add Disney/Touchstone's hype that it's "based on a true story," and it looks like a family-friendly adventure, right?
That's where Hidalgo's problems begin. Apparently, there is serious debate over the facts of Hopkins' life. The movie is based on his autobiography; you can read Hopkins' side of the story here, but beware of plot spoilers. But a simple Internet search yields the more widely held perspective that ...1
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