HIDALGO recounts the life of legend Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen). Set in the 1800s, this family film chronicles the triumphant victory won by Frank and his mustang Hidalgo in the Ocean of Fire, an often-fatal competition in which the best riders and thoroughbreds race across Middle Eastern deserts. For Frank, who is known in the west for his prowess as a Pony Express rider and the winner of long-distance horse races, the lure of the Ocean of Fire is not only the $100,000 purse but also the clear challenge--both of which prove irresistible, and inspire him to travel across the world for this life-altering experience.

Not an original epic by any means.

In the 1890s, after witnessing the massacre at Wounded Knee, cowboy Frank T. Hopkins, Viggo Mortensen, accepted a challenge to race his mustang, Hidalgo, across 4,800 kilometers of North African desert. Hopkins soon finds that the race is a perilous one, - not only is it highly competitive, but there are sand storms, quicksand, booby-traps, bandits and a sneaky Englishwoman, Louise Lombard, who is determined her horse will win. Despite the pressure, Hopkins finds time to get to know the chief Shiekh, Omar Sharif, and his daughter, Zuleikha Robinson.

There really was a Frank T. Hopkins, but I\'m not sure how much else of this tall tale is true. The opening scenes are virtually a replay of the beginning of The Last Samurai, with Hopkins taking to drink because he\'s disgusted by the destruction the white man has brought to the Native Americans (he is half Indian himself). In Arabia he finds he\'s the underdog, that his horse is a joke because it isn\'t a thoroughbred like the much-prized Arabian horses he\'s competing with - but Hopkins won\'t allow any insults directed at Hidalgo and the audience is left in no doubt that the American will show those sneaky Arabs who\'s the better horseman and who has the better horse. It\'s a tremendously patronising film, and a pretty stodgy one, too, despite a few rather contrived action sequences, one of which includes computer generated leopards. Thank goodness for Omar Sharif who brings dignity, and a sly sense of humour, to his otherwise conventionally written role.