Depressed by the US government’s genocide of Native Americans, Frank T. Hopkins (ViggoMortensen) is drinking himself into oblivion while working for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.His horse, a Mustang named Hidalgo, has been called the world’s best endurance racer, whichdraws the ire of an Arabian shiek, who feels his horse owns that title. Honour challenged,Hopkins travels to the Arabian Desert to take part in a gruelling 3,000-mile race.
Having gone out of its way …o portray the slaughter of the Native Americans as a Bad Thing,the movie then, without blinking an eye, somehow finds a way of making the genocide all aboutFrank and his problems, the deaths of untold thousands being merely a backdrop for hisalcoholism. Racial stereotypes are omnipresent and egregious, from the impossibly wise Chief tothe treacherous and tricky Arabs (excluding, of course, the noble Omar Sharif), who meet theirmatch in the plucky can-do honesty of the blue-eyed white boy. It is astonishing, really, how theworld’s only superpower can so consistently cast itself as the underdog in its popular culture. Theracism of the film is all the more pathetic given how highly the movie clearly thinks of itself andits politics. And we already saw that CGI sandstorm effect years ago in TheMummy.
The music is terrifically enveloping, and is the strongest element of the soundtrack (whichcomes in both DTS and Dolby 5.1). There some very strong surround sound effects (as in the roarof a train passing by), but they are, on the whole, rather rare, with the environmental effect beingpowered almost exclusively by the music.
The picture is magnificent. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the image isextremely crisp and sharp, with no grain or edge enhancement problems. The colours areexcellent, varying from cold to warm as the scene demands. Blacks and contrasts are beyondreproach as well. In a word, the transfer is gorgeous.
Not too much here. Can a special edition be in the works? “Sand and Celluloid” is a 9-minute making-of featurette — the usual piece of promotion. Selecting the icon at the bottom leftof the Special Features screen opens up an Easter Egg of Native Americans telling the story ofHidalgo. The other, larger extra is a DVD-ROM feature that covers such topics as the history ofthe Mustang and the writings of Frank T. Hopkins. Trailers on the disc are for Mr. 3000,The Alamo, The Young Black Stallion and Around the World in 80 Days— a rather depressing batch. The menu is fully animated and scored.
It looks terrific, I’ll grant the film that. It is also an exercise in mealy-mouthedhypocrisy.
Special Features List
- “Sand and Celluloid” Featurette
- “America’s First Horse” DVD-ROM Feature
- Easter Egg