Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Hidalgo

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adventure violence and some mild innuendo

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
STAFF WRITER

Average
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens and Adults
Genre:
Western and Action Adventure
Length:
2 hr. 16 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
Featuring: Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Crimson Tide, G.I. Jane), Zuleikha Robinson (Timecode, Slash), Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl, The 13th Warrior), Louise Lombard, Adam Alexi-Malle, Saïd Taghmaoui, Silas Carson, Harsh Nayyar
Director: Joe Johnston (Honey, I shrunk the Kids; Jumanji; October Sky; Jurassic Park III)
Producer: Casey Silver
Distributor: Touchstone/Buena Vista
Copyright, Touchstone/Buena Vista
Copyright, Touchstone/Buena Vista
Copyright, Touchstone/Buena Vista
Copyright, Touchstone/Buena Vista
Copyright, Touchstone/Buena Vista
Copyright, Touchstone/Buena Vista
Copyright, Touchstone/Buena Vista
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Touchstone/Buena Vista

This is an old-fashioned Western hero story, an enjoyable genre that has become quite rare. It does have Political Correctness, with a sympathetic appearance by Floyd Red Crow Westerman of “Dances With Wolves,” and even a nod to “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” (which was penned by the same writer). But the main character is a can’t-be-bought type through and through.

It’s 1890, and former Pony Express rider Frank T. Hopkins is best known for winning endurance races on his painted Mustang horse, Hidalgo. But he’s also employed by the U.S. Military as a sort of courier/scout, and one day is given a packet of orders to carry to the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee. In the aftermath of the massacre, the conflicted Hopkins (who is part Native American) turns to hard drinking and to doing silly performances in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. This character introduction is similar to that of Tom Cruise in “The Last Samurai.” The similarity continues as Hopkins eventually travels overseas to get away from it all.

A rich visitor from Arabia attends the Wild West show, and challenges Buffalo Bill to either stop billing Hidalgo as the world’s best endurance racehorse, or else put the claim to the test by letting Hopkins enter the annual 3000-mile “Ocean of Fire” race across the Arabian Desert, Iraq and Syria. The winner’s purse is $100,000. Hopkins doesn’t intend to enter. but Annie Oakley collects money from everyone in the show, and hands Hopkins the entry fee.

There are about a hundred other horses and riders in the race, but only three of them will be main characters. Hopkins is the only “foreigner infidel,” and many people consider it sacrilege that he’s even competing. There’s a major subtheme of deflating Arab/Muslim pride in their own superiority and that of their Arabian horses. Some folks are honorable and accept the premise of a fair race, leaving the results to the will of Allah. But others try various means of “fixing” the race (kidnapping riders or their horses, depriving contestants of water etc.).

Hopkins behaves honorably throughout, ignoring both threats and bribes (a rich Western woman who owns one of the racehorses offers Hopkins a large sum of money to drop out, which he refuses; then she offers herself, which he also refuses). Hopkins also manages to take time out from the race to rescue a Sheikh’s kidnapped daughter.

Considering the genre, if you guess beforehand at the outcome of the race, you’ll probably be correct. But the film’s overall ending has some surprises and ties up several loose ends.

The violence is heavy at times, with a large body count. But it’s done in a mostly-bloodless and surreal style similar to that of the adventure sequences in “Secondhand Lions.” However, there’s one severed head, mistreatment of people and animals, and a scene where Hidalgo falls into a stake-trap and is impaled through the shoulder.

Profanity is limited to a few instances of d* and h* and one use of “bast*.”

There’s also a small amount of sexual innuendo, and a lot of racial—and religious-superiority remarks by the Arabs which are overdone to the point that they might anger real-life people from Muslim culture. There’s no actual sex or nudity. There’s drinking and smoking, and we might wonder what’s actually being smoked in a water pipe.

Hopkins is falsely accused of fooling around with Sheikh Riyadh’s (Omar Sharif) daughter Jazira (Zuleikha Robinson), for which she is to receive a whipping, and he is to be castrated (we get a glimpse of the knives and gripping tools used for this procedure). But when Jazira is carried off by the REAL bad guys, the Sheikh sends Hopkins on a mission to rescue her. Once that’s accomplished, Hopkins’ original offense (which he never really committed) is forgiven.

Although Hopkins and Jazira are the romantic-item subtheme, they never kiss and barely touch. But to sincere, conservative Muslims, Jazira’s audacity in just seeking out Hopkins as a friend and in unveiling her face to him would be offensive. Problem is, the Sheikh, who has lost all his sons and has only Jazira, has treated her like a son (teaching her horseback riding and hunting) in private, but still pretends to regard her as worthless when in the company of other men. So, he’s given her a thirst for adventure and sent her a mixed message. This portrayal of the Sheikh as a hypocrite could be regarded as offensive too. Of course, the “Christian lady” who will stop at nothing to win the race isn’t a great character model either. Hopkins and Jazira (and, of course, the amazing horse in the title role) are positive models. The Sheikh is so-so (his behavior is, to an extent, dictated by the culture he’s “trapped” in). Most everyone else is negative. Hey, it’s a cowboy movie.

One other warning: there’s a scene where Hopkins and Hidalgo are in the desert, both exhausted and apparently near death, and Hopkins prays/chants in an Indian (that is, Native American) language and sees some blurry visions of Indians. Shortly thereafter, Hopkins and Hidalgo get back into the race, with renewed strength. Someone in that overheated, dehydrated condition will of course be prone to seeing visions, and the scene is deliberately presented in an ambiguous manner, so I just considered it a hallucination. But for an impressionable person without an established worldview, the more obvious interpretation would be that the vision was real and the spirits (Hopkins’ ancestors?) gave him and his horse some kind of supernatural help.

Other than “The Passion…,” this is the first film I’ve seen this year that I’d actually recommend. An age limit of 12 or 13 would probably be about right in most cases, but of course every child is different. That’s where parental guidance comes in.

Violence: Heavy | Profanity: Minor | Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I recently went to this movie with my 11-½ yr. old daughter. I am a homeschooling mother and I try to use every opportunity as a teaching one. I was a bit concerned when the sexual innuendo started with the “Christian woman” but was pleasantly surprised that the main character, Frank Hopkins turned her down. There was quite a bit of violence, but it was not overdone gore-wise. And, of course, the Native American spiritualism was very evident. Compared to other movies that I have seen advertised recently I would have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the overall content and entertainment value of this film. As a real “Christian woman and mother” I make sure that I talk with my daughter about the movies that we see and make sure she understands what is right and wrong with them as relates to our worldview as followers of Christ. If parents and families look at this film in that way I do recommend this as an exciting, horse crazy, action filled treat!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Debra Harris, age 44
Positive—I was pleasantly surprised by this “Middle East meets the Wild West” adventure. I was especially intrigued because I am a home school mom, and we had just been studying the introduction of horses to North America andfelt this provided some intriguing historical events. I was also interested because my husband is a Christian immigrant from the Middle East and I grew up in the “Wild West.” Hollywood allowed the main character, though morally flawed by his alcoholism, to stick to his morals with tempted. I was especially impressed by how he rejected the married womans offer of sex as a bribe.

NOTE: there is absolutely no nudity. Not even a naked behind! Christians need to know that the movie glorifies Native American spiritism, and the main character is shown in a pivotal scene, praying to his ancestors and receiving miraculous help from them. This scene was horribly drawn out and made me sick to my stomach. The violence was handled somewhat tactfully, and as my husband pointed out, sword fighting amongst Arabs is as much an art as gunfighting by cowboys. Most of the Arab characters are portrayed quite one dimensionally, but my husband stated that many of them are that way when faced with “infidels.” The dialog by Arab characters in the film was done in Arabic with English subtitles which lent credibility, even though the Sheik and his daughter spoke different dialects? The princess asking the cowboy to look at her face unveiled was unrealistic and contrived. My husband had to laugh at the rain clouds which were rolling though the dessert! I plan to rent it when it comes out on video and show it to my 10 year old daughter, because I will be able to fast forward through the violence (sword fighting with lobbing off heads and various types of impalement) and spiritism. I would not recommend this be seen in the theatre by children under 14. Parents need to be prepared to explain the biblical teaching on necromancy!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Dena Abdallah, age 37
Positive—I thought this movie was an excellent, almost old school approach to action movies, reminding me of Sunday afternoon movies that you watch when there is nothing else to do, and you actually thoroughly enjoy them! What I mean to say is, like the other viewer, I was not embarrased to have seen it (by nudity, language or other offensive content… the only bad thing was the spirituality of the Muslims and Indians…) The music was also noteworthy—an excellent, exciting score to a fun and interesting movie!
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Matt, age 19
Neutral—…entertaining action movie, well-made, fun plot and characters, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. The main things offensive about the movie are its obvious (to me, anyhow) anti-Christian bias. Very politically correct, the Muslims and especially native American Indians are shown as sincere, and honorable in their faith; and even theologically correct in their prayer! Every white person portrayed is evil! The most evil white person is even referred to as “the Christian woman” so there’s no doubt as to her orientation. The movie is also anti-American, in that the American soldiers are all portrayed as insensitive, brutal murderers. The hero shuns the American flag, instead flying an American Indian emblem. The one non-PC aspect of the movie is the hero’s gun, a Colt peacemaker six-shooter which is featured prominently. So the movie is at least not an anti-gun message. Other than that, it’s good fun action as long as the kids know the ways that the movie is trying to influence them.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Jared Barlow, age 34
Positive—This is an excellent movie. It has wonderful themes throughout. The main character is a gentleman in the way he treats others, especially women. I would not worry about taking older children to this film.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Sarah Lee, age 38
Positive—I enjoyed this film but as expressed by others was disappointed by the anti-American and anti-Christian bias. Having grown up in South Dakota among the Sioux it was fun to see this western filmed (the first part) in my neck of the woods. I have to express one pet pieve however, no cowboy in his right mind would ever run his overheated horse into a body of water as they do in the ending. This is a great way to kill your horse. I wouldn’t object to teens seeing this as long a you talk through the obvious biases portrayed.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—David Daum, age 40
Positive—My reaction to this film is overwhelmingly positive…
My Ratings: [Excellent!/4]
—Eva, age 27
Positive—This was a great film. Not many like this are made anymore. The title character had integrity and courage and did not give up in the face of overwhelming odds. The movie also portrayed the Wounded Knee massacre in stark truthfulness. More Christians need to take a good honest look at the hideous things that were done to Native Americans without crying “politically correct” when such unpleasant (but true) accounts are portrayed. God shows no partiality. There were several good twists and surprises in the story that made for a refreshing, good movie—even if you can tell how things will turn out. I recommend it with some caution concerning violent portions.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Norm Gotch, age 48
Neutral—The Good: What I really liked about this film is the lack of overexaggerated action scenes. There is action, but it is believable and interspersed with intelligent plot development. The beauty of the settings and the exotic dress was also enjoyable. Refreshingly, there is nothing objectionable other than the villians attempting to thwart/kill their enemies. There is little or no bad language and no sex or nudity.

The Bad: The characters are very flat—even the main character played by Viggo Mortgensen was vague and underdeveloped. I did not find myself really rooting for him or the horse. The other characters were only slightly more developed and there is almost no humor anywhere. The ending is OK but there isn’t enough emotional lead-up to make it satisfying.

The Ugly: The worst part of this film is the akward clash between the two cultures (American cowboy vs. Arab sheik) and the main character’s Indian heritage which could not be avoided as this is based on true events. I am certain the book is a better entertainment choice.
My Ratings: [Good/2½]
—Heather Couch, age 33

Comments from young people
Positive—I loved this movie! The actors were great. The violence was limited. There was one scene where Frank could have slept with a woman but refused too. The only gross scene would be when Hidalgo was stabbed by a spear. It was very realistic and I loved the ending. I would recommend this movie for anyone ages 10 and up.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Kyle Parks, age 11
Positive—I thought it was a good movie. They did not show body parts in the movie and they did not do unclean stuff in the movie witch you can’t find vary much of any more in movies now. I recommend this movie for teens to parents.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Jason Lowery, age 13
Positive—Wow! What an amazing movie! The wonderful story is one of the only truly good horse stories I’ve seen. There is a lot of violence, but it is mostly sword fighting and very few guns are used. Be aware that in the beginning there is a massacre of the Indians, so I wouldn’t take anyone under 12-13. Overall, one of the best movies all year! Enjoy.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Maria Vanderende, age 16
Positive—I personally loved this movie! There was NO sexual/nudity or anything like that! My favorite thing about it is how selfless Frank was… He also controls himself in the face of terrible temptation!…
My Ratings: [Good/5]
—Beth, age 12
Positive—…one of the better movies I’ve seen so far this year. It was very clean and easy to sense the main characters feelings towards his horse because I love horses as well. The plot was thrilling and will keep you on your toes.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Rochelle, age 17
Positive—This was a really good movie. I liked it a lot. There was a lot of violence, but it wasn’t very bloody or gory. There were a few bad words and some innuendo. There’s one part where Frank Hopkins is talking to an Arab and the Arab says that it was God’s will that he die in this race, and Frank Hopkins says something to the degree of, “it’s your horse’s will that you win this race, though.” like the horse’s will overrode God. Other than that and alcohol and cigarette use, Frank Hopkins was an overall good guy. Viggo Mortenson was a really good cowboy. I liked the ending, too.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Brittney, age 13
Positive—…excellent action movie! It has been the most clean, interesting action movie I have seen in a long time. The sandstorm scene was a edge-of-your-seat moment, as was the scene in which black-robed men steal a horse breeding book and the Sheiks daughter. There were several scenes of mass killing (in the beginning and several times in the duration of the film) but the movie was set in war times and the bloodiness is kept to a minimum. A scene in which Frank cuts a wooden stake from Hidalgo’s leg was relatively gory but not horrendous. The movie’s epilogue said that the descendants of Hidalgo lived in Oregon and the movie made me want to see them, although I am not a huge horse fan. I recommend it for children over 12 or those who seem mature enough to handle the mass killing scenes.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Faith, age 11 ½
Positive—I waited forever to see this film and it was totally worth it! …The end wasn’t what I was thinking it was going to be but, it summed it up really well. Plus, some of it was filmed in Montana!!(That’s were I’m from)
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Mardi, age 12
Positive—…just to have a good time—it’s a good movie to see. I like the irony of the fight scenes where Middle East met Wild West. The dialogue was very weak in my opinion, and not well written. There are some parts in the movie where you could use an explanation, like how a horse with a long gash in its side could “let her buck.” Overall, I enjoyed the movie as another fun-to-watch Western with it’s typically weak dialogue. If the producers/directors had spent more time on the movie it would have been awesome.
My Ratings: [Good/3]
—Thomas, age 16
Neutral—I well made film and pretty enjoyable, but I found parts of it to be a little too serious for the action flick it was supposed to be. It was fun to see Viggo Mortensen in a role other than Aragorn. There was no sex, but lots of violence and a disturbing scene with a horse being wounded with a spear, though none of it was extremely gratuitous. They certainly picked a beautiful actress to play the Arabian princess. In general, the movie had good morals. I especially liked how Frank never slept with any women, even though he had plenty of chances to. Something James Bond or Indiana Jones would have jumped to do. Overall, a well-made, generally fun movie, but a little two serious and not enough horse character development scenes of Hidalgo.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
Taran Gingery, age 17
Positive—This movie was overall pretty good. There was quite a bit of violence, mild language, some usage of the Lord’s name in vain, and some mild sensuality. I look back on it and I probably shouldn’t have seen it at my age. I would definitely not recommend this movie for anyone under 13-15 years of age. There is some blood and gore at times. The movie was very well made. The graphics were okay. The lighting was pretty good, If you are over the age of 13 I would HIGHLY recommend it. Although if you are a parent and you would like to show it to your child, it’s your call! If you do show it to your child, you might want to discuss some of the adult themes after the film. Overall, this movie definitely earned its PG-13 rating, but it also was a WONDERFUL movie!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Patrick Burton, age 10
Positive—I saw this with my mom and was absolutely thrilled with it. Its a good story line also. There is a good amount of comedy. The innuendo which I thought would be a lot worse wasn’t bad at all. There wasn’t even one kiss in the whole movie. There is a part were Frank calls to his ancestors for help because he was brought up that way. Some people would call that offensive but as a Christian I don’t see it that way because it is what he always believed, practicly a false religion. The violence wasn’t to bad. I say go and see this great movie!!
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Brittany Marie Jensen, age 12
Positive—I think this movie is one of the absolute best movies I’ve seen all year. Viggo Mortensen does an incredible job acting a lost cowboy. I couldn’t find anything “unchristian” or “immoral” about this movie at all. There is one part of the movie where he sees some of his little indian ancestors while he’s hallucinating in the dessert and some peeps thought the worst of this. They’re really actually overreacting (whoever said that this scene made them sick-sorry, but you seriously have some problems and you should get help if you get sick from watching a dude hallucinate). I also found this movie very funny.
My Ratings: [Excellent!/5]
—Chica, age 14
Positive—…excellent! Over time, I have come to appreciate the actors from the Lord of the Rings (Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom) which caused me to be interested in this adventure film. This movie is definitely worth your money, considering it uses basically no profanity, no sexual scenes and limited violence. This is definitely a movie I feel confident that God could sit down and watch with me. This movie has splendid acting, high action and a good length, (not cheap and short). This is on movie you can go and see and not have to worry about garbage on the screen, so go and see Hidalgo if you want to watch a great action flick.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Abraham, age 14
Positive—From a filmmaker’s perspective, I’d say very well done! The sets, costumes, and acting were all high quality. Its violence, though minor, was not over done or too graphic for younger children. Although I would not call it a Christian film (do to a bit of Indian mumbo-jumbo), Frank T. (Viggo Mortensen) did not get “involved” in any of the “woman” scenes, and didn’t even kiss any of the female characters, in which both cases there were opportunities to do so. It’s always nice to have a clean film on the moral side now-a-days. Anyway, I liked it and would recommend it. (PG-10+)
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Jenna, age 13
Neutral—…I thought it was okay. The beginning is very sad though. A lot of people die and there is just a little bit of blood in scenes. I think ages 10 and up would be alright seeing it unless your kids don’t like killing, fighting, or sadness. I am glad I saw it, but I just don’t think it is good enough to get on DVD. But of course, everybody is different.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
—Carolyn, age 11
Positive—This movie was good… However, I was a little disappointed. The all-around movie was good. Very good, even. No bad language (that I could catch), or major violence, or sexual content. But I was hoping for big suspense.They didn’t really seem to want to win the race. It was kinda slow-going. But it wasn’t like it put you to sleep. It was funny and a good story. And I liked it a lot. But I thought it’d be more. And the guy who played Frank Hopkins, he did much better acting in the LOTR as Aragorn. He’s not really the cowboy “type.” My opinion is that it’s good clean and funny, but don’t go in with really high expectations.
My Ratings: [Good/4½]
—Hannah, age 13