Written by John Fusco
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Zuleikha Robinson, Omar Sharif, Louise Lombard, and SaÃ¯d Taghmaoui
- “Sand and Celluloid” making-of featurette
- “America’s First Horse” enhanced computer featurette
Released by: Touchstone Home Entertainment
My Advice: Rent it.
Frank Hopkins (Mortensen) is a Pony Express rider whose best friend is his horse, Hidalgo. Hopkins and Hidalgo have earned a national reputation for being champions of endurance races in the late 1800s. While he’s performing with Buffalo Bill Cody’s (J.K. Simmons) Wild West Show, his reputation is picked up by a Sheik (Sharif) who challenges them to race the 3,000 mile race across the deserts of the Middle East. They accept the challenge. Along the route of the race, they are challenged with bands of raiders who are very proud of their pure-bred horses and look down upon the infidel and his mixed-breed horse from America. They take this race and their breeding rights very seriously–enough to kill men and horses to make sure they win the race.
[ad#longpost]This has the feel of a Seabiscuit type of film. It’s sentimental, but not overly so. Mortensen’s Hopkins is right on the money, though. He’s perfectly believable as a Pony Express rider who is of mixed American and Native American blood himself. His relationship with the horse(s) in the movie is fantastic. Sharif creates a very dynamic character as well and his relationship with his daughter, played by Robinson, is a nice parallel to the main story. The story itself drags on a little bit, but it does not let you down in the end.
The DVD is quaint. There is only a making-of featurette and a look at the American wild mustang. The former is pretty basic stuff; interviews with the cast and crew talking about the difficulties in shooting in the desert and the difficulty of getting so many horses from Stateside to the location for shooting. It only lasts about ten minutes and skims the surface of the movie’s production. The latter is a bit confusing. When you select the option from the menu in your DVD player, it basically shows you what looks like an opening credit sequence for another featurette and that’s all. There is no indication that this might be a DVD-ROM featurette. The other problem that I had was that my computer would not play through the InterActual player, which means that I could not access the DVD-ROM special content. The DVD would play through every other player I had installed, but it was treated exactly as though it was playing through my television and I got the same credit sequence.
I did find an Easter Egg of sorts. It was not very well hidden on the bonus features menu, but when clicked on, it presented me with a short interview sequence with some Native Americans and the stories they’d heard about Hopkins. It ends with a short snippet of an interview with Mortensen about the horse he’s currently working with. There’s not much to it, but at least it’s something.
If you haven’t seen the movie, rent it. There’s nothing on this release to warrant a recommendation to purchase.