Hidalgo is a 2004 epic biographical western film based on the legend of the American distance rider Frank Hopkins and his mustang Hidalgo. It recounts Hopkins' racing his horse in Arabia in 1891 against Bedouins riding pure-blooded Arabian horses. The movie was written by John Fusco and directed by Joe Johnston. It stars Viggo Mortensen, Zuleikha Robinson, and Omar Sharif.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoe Johnston
Written byJohn Fusco
Produced byCasey Silver
CinematographyShelly Johnson
Edited byRobert Dalva
Music byJames Newton Howard
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
March 5, 2004 (2004-03-05)
Running time
136 minutes
CountriesUnited States
Budget$100 million
Box office$108.1 million

Hidalgo was released by Buena Vista Pictures on March 5, 2004. Upon release, the film received mixed reviews and it underperformed at the box office, grossing $108 million against a budget of $100 million.

Plot Edit

In 1890, Frank T. Hopkins and his mustang, Hidalgo, are part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, advertised as "the world's greatest endurance horse and rider." A famous long-distance racer, cowboy, and dispatch rider for the United States government, Hopkins is plagued by guilt for having carried a message to the 7th Cavalry Regiment authorizing the Wounded Knee Massacre of Lakota Sioux. He translates a futile request from another performer, Chief Eagle Horn, for Bill to help his nation’s mustangs that have been rounded up by the government to be eradicated.

Wealthy Sheikh Riyadh sends his attaché Aziz, accompanied by Rau Rasmussen, to challenge Hopkins and Hidalgo to enter the "Ocean of Fire": an annual 3,000-mile race across the Najd desert region for a $100,000 prize. The Sheikh is custodian of the al-Khamsa line, considered the greatest distance horses in the world, and traditionally the race has been restricted to pure-bred Arabian horses and Bedouin or Arab riders. Hopkins’ fellow performers raise his entrance fee, and he encounters unscrupulous English horse breeder Lady Anne Davenport. He meets Sheikh Riyadh, an admirer of the Wild West, who has promised his daughter Jazira as the fifth wife to the prince riding the Sheikh's horse Al-Hattal, should he win.

The race begins, and Hopkins and Hidalgo face grueling conditions and contempt for an "infidel" riding an "impure" horse, and survive sabotage and a sandstorm. Determined to live her own life, Jazira advises Hopkins on surviving in the desert, but they are discovered together in his tent. The Sheikh prepares to have Hopkins gelded as punishment, but his outcast nephew Katib raids the camp, seeking control of the al-Khamsa line. The prince flees on Al-Hattal, but Aziz steals the Sheikh’s family journal of horse breeding for Katib, who kidnaps Jazira and demands Al-Hattal as ransom.

Hopkins rescues Jazira, who recovers the journal. Journeying back to camp, Hopkins reveals that his mother was Lakota Sioux, deepening his guilt over his role at Wounded Knee. Jazira compares his relationship to his heritage with her desire to avoid wearing the veil, urging him not to "go through life hiding what God made you." Davenport bribes Hopkins to drop out of the race, but he declines her offer and her advances toward him. Unbeknownst to him, Davenport is in league with Katib; they plan to kill Hidalgo and steal Al-Hattal, allowing her mare to win the race and breed with the Sheikh’s horse.

Enduring a swarm of locusts, Hopkins remembers Jazira’s advice and he and Hidalgo resort to eating them. Although it is forbidden to help other riders, he saves his opponent Sakr from quicksand. Hopkins is ambushed by Katib and falls into a trap, severely injuring Hidalgo, and is rescued by Sakr. They fight off Katib's men, but Sakr is shot, and Hopkins kills Katib in one of his own traps. Hidalgo collapses, and Hopkins considers shooting him in mercy, but a vision of Lakota elders and his mother appears to him as he chants a prayer to Wakan Tanka.

The prince arrives and taunts Hopkins that the end of the race is in sight, and Hidalgo suddenly struggles upright. Riding bareback, Hopkins comes from behind to surpass Davenport's mare and the prince, winning the race. He befriends the Sheikh, giving him his revolver, and bids farewell to an unveiled Jazira, who calls him by his Lakota name, Blue Child. Returning to the United States, Frank uses his winnings to buy the mustangs from the government, releasing them into the wild and freeing Hidalgo to join them. An epilogue reveals that Hopkins went on to reportedly win 400 long-distance races and was an outspoken supporter for wild mustangs until his death in 1951, while Hidalgo's descendants live free in the wilderness of Oklahoma.

Cast Edit

Production Edit

Actor Viggo Mortensen, who is fluent in Spanish, voiced his own character (Frank Hopkins) in the Spanish dubs of the film.

Historical accuracy Edit

The Native American historian Vine Deloria questioned Hopkins' claims of Lakota ancestry, as presented uncritically in the film.[1][2]

But, Nakota filmmaker Angelique Midthunder said during the controversy that "the story of the half Indian who took his pinto mustang across the sea to race in the big desert has been told to children of the northern plains tribes for generations."[3] Lakota elder Sonny Richards writes, "Kaiyuzeya Sunkanyanke (Frank Hopkins) was a South Dakota native and Lakota half-breed."[3]

Based on Hopkins' account of his mixed-race ancestry, the movie production employed Lakota historians, medicine men, and tribal leaders as consultants to advise during every scene that represented their culture. Many of the Ghost Dancers who reenact the sacred ceremony of 1890 in Hidalgo had participated in the film Thunderheart (1992) and the mini-series Dreamkeeper, both written by Fusco. The screenwriter was adopted as an honorary relative of the Oglala Nation in a Hunkyapi ceremony (Making of Relatives) on September 3, 1989, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.[citation needed]

Because the Disney Corporation marketed the movie as a true story, some historians criticized the film both because of the legendary status of Hopkins' claims and for the film's divergence from his accounts.[4] They contend that many of the events, especially the featured race, never took place.[5] Historians of distance riding said that most of Hopkins' claims as depicted in the film, including the race, have been 'tall tales' or hoaxes.[6]

The film says that descendants of the horse Hidalgo, for which the movie was named, live among the Gilbert Jones herd of Spanish Mustangs on Blackjack Mountain in Oklahoma. By Hopkins' original account, he decided to leave his horse in Arabia after the race.[6]

In 2006, John Fusco, the screenwriter of Hidalgo, responded to criticism about the historical basis of the film. He had done research on Hopkins for years. He said that he used parts of Hopkins' 1891 desert memoirs (unpublished during the rider's lifetime) and "heightened the 'Based On' story to create an entertaining theatrical film." He held that the story of the man and his horse is true. Fusco offered quotes from surviving friends of Hopkins, notably former distance riders Walt and Edith Pyle, and Lt Col William Zimmerman, along with information found in horse history texts, as verification.[6]

According to the Longriders Guild, the Saudi Arabian Government say officially that there has never been an "Ocean of Fire" race. Hopkins never named the event; he referred to it in his writings as an annual ceremonial ride in the region.[6] According to the Arab historian Dr. Awad al-Badi, such a lengthy race was impossible. He said,

There is no record or reference to Hopkins with or without his mustangs ever having set foot on Arabian soil. The idea of a historic long-distance Arab horse race is pure nonsense and flies against all reason. Such an event in Arabia any time in the past is impossible simply from a technical, logistical, cultural and geopolitical point of view. It has never been part of our rich traditions and equestrian heritage.[7]

Horses Edit

Several American Paint horses were used to portray Hidalgo. The actor Viggo Mortensen later bought RH Tecontender, one of the horses used in the film. The screenwriter John Fusco bought Oscar, the main stunt horse, and retired him at Red Road Farm, his American Indian horse conservancy. Another one was bought by a ranch near Toponas, Colorado.

Reception Edit

Critical response Edit

The movie received mixed reviews from mainstream critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 46% with an average rating of 5.5/10, based on reviews from 164 critics.[8] The critical consensus reads, "The scenery looks great, but this overstuffed horse story contains too much cheese". Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 54/100 based on reviews from 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on A+ to F scale.[10]

Roger Ebert offered a positive review of the film (three out of four stars), saying it's "Bold, exuberant and swashbuckling," the kind of fun, rip-snorting adventure film Hollywood rarely makes anymore. He added, "please ignore any tiresome scolds who complain that the movie is not really based on fact. Duh."[11]

Box office Edit

The film grossed approximately $18,829,435 on its opening weekend, peaking at #3 behind The Passion of the Christ and Starsky and Hutch in 3,065 theatres.[12] It closed from theatres on July 22, 2004, with $67.3 million in North America, and $40.8 million internationally. The film made a worldwide total of $108.1 million.[13]

Accolades Edit

John Fusco won the Spur Award for Best Western Drama Script; although most of the plot of Hidalgo was not set in the American West, it featured an American cowboy figure.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Andrew Gumbel (March 10, 2004). "Disney rides into trouble with story of cowboy who conquers the Middle East". The Independent. Retrieved August 14, 2011. Vine Deloria of the University of Colorado, is furious at the uncritical repetition of Hopkins' claims about his role in Sioux history. He wrote: "Hopkins' claims are so outrageously false that one wonders why Disney were attracted to this material at all, except of course the constant propensity to make money under any conditions available."
  2. ^ "Dr. Vine Deloria Jr. denounces Frank Hopkins as a fraud". Longriders Guild. Hopkins claims are so outrageously false that one wonders why the Disney people were attracted to this material at all. ... Try this on for size – Hopkins claimed to be the grandson of Geronimo who, he confided, was really a Sioux and not an Apache at all. Hopkins, according to himself and wife, was very popular with the Indians because he was half Sioux himself, his mother being a lady called Nah-Kwa – her more formal name was Valley Naw-Kwa or "Valley of Silence" – hardly fitting for a woman who had such illustrious relatives. Hopkins spoke "the Indian language" so he was a natural interpreter for the Army – although his name does not appear on any treaty documents where the interpreters are listed or in any correspondence in government files wherein interpreters were needed.
  3. ^ a b "Frank Hopkins" Archived June 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Official Website
  4. ^ "The Frank Hopkins Hoax", The Longriders Guild
  5. ^ Anthony B. Toth, "Disney's 'Hidalgo': A New Hollywood Low", History News Network, February 28, 2004
  6. ^ a b c d Basha O'Reilly, "Hidalgo – from myth to movie", The Longriders Guild
  7. ^ Peter Harrigan, "Hidalgo: A Film or Flimflam?" Archived 2011-11-11 at the Wayback Machine, Arab News, 13 May 2003, accessed 2010-12-28
  8. ^ "Hidalgo". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. 2004. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  9. ^ "Hidalgo". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. 2004. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  10. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved October 31, 2022.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 5, 2004). "Hidalgo". Sun Times. RogerEbert.com. Archived from the original on March 10, 2005. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  12. ^ "Domestic 2004 Weekend 10". Box Office Mojo.
  13. ^ "Hidalgo". Box Office Mojo.

External links Edit