Prayer Focus
Movie Review


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

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Western and Action Adventure
2 hr. 16 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Featuring: Viggo Mortensen
The 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.

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 thought the film was great! Some have objected to the “anti-american bias” in the movie. Others have objected to the offensive stereotyping of arabs and their culture. I found neither to be a problem. The movie is not “anti american”—the hero is a cowboy, who saves the great American horses in the end—the mustangs. The movie was full of stereotypes—the indians, the cavalry, the cowboy, the horse, Buffalo Bill Cody, the arabs, the villains—almost everything. The difference was that the characters portrayed the stereotype in a tongue-in-cheek manner that I found hilarious. An additional comment about “the Christian woman.” Having grown up in another country, I saw this as yet one more stereotype on arabic culture. In that culture, almost anyone from a “christian” country would be considered a “christian.” Thus (and this is very true), in those cultures, Hollywood is considered “christian”! Overall, I not only recommend the movie, but I also highly recommend further personal research on Frank T. Hopkins. My research has proved most interesting.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
Nathan, age 27
Comments from young people
Positive—Great Movie! I loved the action scenes, not to mention the main ( human) character’s morality with the english lady. Other Viewers mentioned the scene with the Native American “ancestors,” and I agree with them, it made me sick. But what concerned me more was the constant putting forth of “Allah” a God. Not as a god. And as someone merciful, kind, and powerful. I understand that it is how that culture is, but I felt as if Disney was pushing it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3½]
Tiffany, age 15