R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Joe Johnston
scr John Fusco
with Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson, Louise Lombard, Adam Alexi-Malle, Said Taghmaoui, Silas Carson, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, JK Simmons, Elizabeth Berridge, C Thomas Howell, Malcolm McDowell
release US 5.Mar.04, UK 14.Apr.04
04/US 2h16

Ride like the wind: Mortensen races across the Sahara

sharif taghmaoui mcdowell
Hidalgo (International) Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Based on the experiences of Wild West rider Frank T Hopkins, this film establishes its epic stature with the opening shots of wintry countryside accompanied by James Newton Howard's soaring score. It's a big, beautiful film that's thoroughly enjoyable even if it never tries to be meaningful.

After witnessing the US government's horrific treatment of Native Americans in 1890, Hopkins (Mortensen) becomes a stunt rider for Buffalo Bill's (Simmons) Wild West Show. Then an Arab sheikh (Alexi-Malle) invites him to join a Bedouin race across 3,000 miles of desert ... to prove that neither Hopkins nor his wild mustang horse Hidalgo are as tough as they think they are. In North Africa, Hopkins develops a friendship with the race organiser, Sheikh Riyadh (Sharif), whose last daughter (Robinson) clearly falls for the visiting infidel! Meanwhile, he also has to contend with the conniving Lady Anne (Lombard), an arrogant prince (Taghmaoui) and a duplicitous rider (Carson).

We never have a doubt as to how this will end, but it's still engaging, even when the story is derailed by standard romance, kidnapping and blackmail subplots. Not to mention the requisite sandstorm. Mortensen is nicely understated as usual; his soft-spoken resilience is the most interesting thing about the film. When he threatens to become more heroic (think Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark or Brendan Fraser in The Mummy), it begins to feels far too familiar and corny. The whole cast is good in this sense, especially the wonderful Sharif.

But director Johnston is too enamoured with the epic scope and the gorgeous desert scenery. We never get a sense of the journey Hopkins takes--either physically (the race took 68 days in reality, but on screen it looks like 6) or internally (the final scenes are pure movie hokum). And even though he touches on very serious racial and social issues, Johnston clearly doesn't want to bog down his adventure epic with anything too thought-provoking. This leaves the film feeling rather contrived and hokey ... but always entertaining and picturesque. If you want to dig into the story, you can always read a book.

cert 12 themes, violence, innuendo 12.Mar.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... hidalgo Laurie T, Minneapolis: "This looked like a movie I just HAD to see - love horse stories and all that. And I must say, I was not disappointed. All I can say is that I loved this movie and will tell everyone who asks, and those who don't to go see it! One of those feel good movies - with a happy ending and the whole bit - you KNOW how it is going to end - there is only one way it can end - but it is enjoyable watching." (7.Mar.04)

Barb C, Colorado Springs: "I loved it! A bit predictable of course, but great action!" (12.Mar.04)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall