Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by:John Fusco
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson, Louise Lombard, Adam Alexi-Malle
Released: March 18, 2004
Grade: C+

If this film is a recreation of actual events, then I’m an 18th Century playwright.  It centres on a horse race held in Saudi Arabia known as the Ocean Of Fire.  Competitors journey across the desert for hundreds of miles and the first man past the post is the winner.  It’s a treacherous adventure with many falling victim to either the elements or the sabotage of others.

The year in 1890 and Sheik Jazira oversees the annual competition.  For the first time, he has sent scouts to America to find a foreign competitor and Jazira has someone in mind – Frank Hopkins (Mortensen) and his horse Hidalgo.  The cowboy Hopkins accepts the invitation lured by the first prize of $100,000 and the chance to prove that Hidalgo is the best long distance runner the world has ever seen.

After a long-winded introduction involving American Indians (don’t ask why), Hopkins travels to Saudi Arabia and the race begins.  Writer John Fusco obviously felt the race wasn’t enough story in itself.  There’s a few confusing subplots including Hopkins’ romance with the Sheik’s daughter, a foiled kidnapping and a sabotage attempt of a pompous English mistress.  To call it all far-fetched is an understatement.

Viggo Mortensen has the title role and the marketers are hoping to cash in on his newfound popularity following The Lord Of The Rings.  Riding on horseback with a softly spoken demeanour may even have some audience members confusing him with Aragorn.  His performance doesn’t impress neither does that of the horse.  I’m dead serious.  Director Joe Johnston (Jumanji) loves zooming in on the horse when he gives one of those cheeky looks.  It’s cute the first time but frustrating for the other 15 times.  It’s also disappointing because Joe Johnston directed one of my favourite films of 1999, October Sky.

At a whopping 134 minutes, I couldn’t wait for Hidalgo to reach the finish line.  I couldn’t care less about the result.