Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Hildalgo, 03-14-04

On Sunday the 14th we went to our local movie house to see "Hildalgo," the new film starring Vigo Mortenson. This is Mortenson's first film since "The Lord of the Rings," and first solo starring vehicle. He plays Frank Hopkins, one-time military courier and endurance race rider. He is half-Sioux on his mother's side, and leaves military service after witnessing the sickening massacre at Wounded Knee. He takes alcohol-sodden refuge working for the Buffalo Bill Wild West show, and finds it no refuge at all as the elderly Indians in the show and its "reenactment" of Indian raids and Little Big Horn continue to haunt him. One half expects to see him sharing a bottle with Captain Algren (Tom Cruise's character from "Last Samurai") although, unlike Algren, Higgins was a real person. The story of his race against the flower of Arabian horse breeding is based on his own story, although historians tend to consider it may be a tall tale.

Tall tale or not, the film works out as an old-fashioned story of high adventure. Hopkins accepts the challenge of Sheikh Riyadh (Omar Sharif) to join the world's longest and toughest endurance ride, the "Ocean of Fire" which runs three thousand miles from Aden to Damascus, across some of the world's most hostile terrain. Along the way, he encounters Arab princesses, disdainful Arab princes, Bedouin bandits, sandstorms, locust plagues, and, of course, cheating and treachery. To describe it as Indiana Jones Meets Seabiscuit would not be far off the mark. Critics have derided the film as being too slow, too crudely plotted, and too unbelievable, none of which I agree with. The film could have been shortened a bit in the early going before the race actually starts, but the conflicts laid out there are important to what happens after.

I enjoyed Mortenson's performance as the laughing but spiritually wounded "cowboy". Omar Sharif repays my respect in his role as the Sheik. Zuleika Robinson was very good as his "wayward" daughter, Louise Lombard effective as the obsessed Lady Anne Davenport, and a very nice cameo by Elizabeth Berridge as Annie Oakley.

All in all, we did find it a good old-fashioned movie: no sex, (not that I mind a little sex--) no remarkable profanity, and no excessive violence or gore, lots of virtue, honor and decency. Definitely worth seeing.
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