On this day in Film History: Hidalgo takes us for a ride (in a good way)

(Pardon this being a few days late)


On this day in film history, Touchstone Pictures released Hidalgo (2004), allegedly the true story of distance rider Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) who rode his horse named Hidalgo in a famous Arabian horse race and won. In the film, the race is overseen by Sheikh Riyadh (Omar Sharif), who has offered his daughter Jazira (Zuleikha Robinson) in marriage to the winning rider.

While the race takes up the bulk of the film, there are numerous side plots going on. There’s the Sheikh’s nephew (Said Taghmaoui) who wants control of his uncle’s horses (and Jazira). There’s the beautiful but devious Lady Davenport (Louise Lombard) who wants her own horse to win the race and over all of that there’s Hopkins’ struggle with his own heritage as a man with a half-white, half-Lakota Sioux background.

While the film received mixed reviews, I personally enjoyed it very much (I freely admit I watched the film because it had Viggo Mortensen in it, he’d become one of my favorite actors after the Lord of the Rings trilogy). I didn’t pay much attention to the music at the time, but when I looked back recently, I was delighted to discover that the score was composed by James Newton Howard. Howard is known for a number of film scores including: Pretty Woman (1990), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001, and my personal favorite of his) and the Hunger Games trilogy (2012-2015). From Hidalgo, my favorite moment musically comes at the start of the great race, that begins with hundreds of riders. As the race starts, there’s a mad dash as all the horses race off in a cloud of dust, and Howard swells the music appropriately to match the excitement. But then, as soon as they are out of sight of the starting line, Hopkins and Hidalgo round a corner and see that the running has stopped and they’ve all settled into a single file, which prompts Hopkins to mutter (something to the effect of) “Just for show then” (referring to the start of the race). The reveal that this won’t be a mad dash from beginning to end is accompanied musically by a swift change in the music. It goes from a frantic melody to a barely audible theme (it almost reflects a sense of disappointment).

If you haven’t seen Hidalgo, it is definitely worth at least one viewing. I hope you enjoy it! -Bex

For more “On this day” posts, see here


2 thoughts on “On this day in Film History: Hidalgo takes us for a ride (in a good way)

  1. Berto

    Awesome post. I enjoyed this film the first time a few years ago and like you, watched it for Viggo Mortensen. What you said about the music made me wanna watch it again though. Certain details like that make a whole film worth watching again sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person


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