They don't make 'em like that anymore
19 April 2004
The Daily Mirror
© Touchstone / Buena Vista Pictures.
They don't make 'em like that anymore. Or rather, it would seem that they do.
Slow, sprawling and gloriously old fashioned, Hidalgo is a throwback to the golden age when the film industry's idea of ultimate exoticism was Stewart Granger on safari.
I have no idea how, in the post-Star Wars era of boundless special effects, they managed to get this movie made. The success of last year's horseracing hit Seabiscuit may have had something to do with it.
Certainly, the timeless little-guy-makes-good-against-the-odds storyline could be summarised as "Seabiscuit in The Sahara."
But, as I marvelled at the retro quality of a production featuring the veteran Omar Sharif reprising his Laurence Of Arabia role as a slightly sinister Arab sheik, a strange thing happened.
I realised that the unmistakable energy and charm of a film which brilliantly exploits The Lord Of The Rings star Viggo Mortensen's screen-hero potential was engulfing me like a raging sandstorm. Damn it. I enjoyed Hidalgo.
Unfolding in far-off lands and featuring beautiful veiled princesses in luxurious Colonel Gaddafi-style tents, director Joe Johnston's tale of derring-do reminded me of the type of movies they used to show at the Saturday morning pictures when I was kid.
Based loosely on the real-life adventures of 1890s Pony Express courier Frank Hopkins, Hidalgo chronicles the remarkable odyssey of a half-Indian cowboy who took his trusty mustang steed to Saudi Arabia to compete in the toughest equine contest of all - the 3,000-mile Ocean Of Fire race.
On the endless North African sands, fearless Frank encounters Arab baddie cheats trying to wreck his chances and good guys who just want fair competition - such as Sharif's Sheik Riyadh.
The spirit of Errol Flynn prevails as Frank and his horse Hidalgo swashbuckle their way across the Dark Continent and conquer impossible odds on the way to an absolutely thrilling finish. Still handsome in old-age, Sharif has lost none of his urbane charm.
As his stunning screen daughter Jazira, Zuleikha Robinson is full of Eastern promise while, in the role of the dodgy aristocrat Lady Anne Davenport, British beauty Louise Lombard proves that she's no slouch in the seduction stakes either.
Mortensen was so taken by the loveable little horse who plays Hidalgo that after filming had finished he adopted him. A nice story to go with a lovely movie. And who wins the $10,000 first prize? I ain't telling you!
Last edited: 8 August 2007 10:26:19