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Held yearly for centuries, the Ocean of Fire--a 3,000 mile survival race across the Arabian desert--was a challenge restricted to the finest Arabian horses ever bred, the purest and noblest lines, owned by the greatest royal families. In 1890, a wealthy sheik invited an American, Frank T. Hopkins, and his horse to enter the race for the first time. During the course of his career, Hopkins was a cowboy and dispatch rider for the U.S. cavalry--and had once been billed as the greatest rider the West had ever known. The Sheik puts his claim to the test, pitting the American cowboy and his mustang, Hidalgo, against the world's greatest Arabian horses and Bedouin riders--some of whom are determined to prevent a foreigner from finishing the race. For Frank, the Ocean of Fire becomes not only a matter of pride and honor, but a race for his very survival as he and his horse attempt the impossible. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
A great action/adventure movie! I was surprised at just how good it was, as it has received so little attention. Viggo Mortensen of Lord of the Rings plays Frank Hopkins, a real-life cowboy, although probably much fictionalized in this movie. He is a half-breed, part Native American and part white. In the film's prologue, he works for the cavalry and witnesses the massacre of his people at Wounded Knee. The event scars him and he becomes a lush. For some easy money, he and his horse, Hidalgo, enter Buffalo Bill's roadshow. Hidalgo is so famous that a sheik has sent a servant to invite him to participate in a race across the Arabian desert, which he accepts, it being a better alternative to the humiliating performances. It's really a classical adventure movie, with princesses and scimitars and sandstorms and swarms of locusts. Omar Sharif co-stars as the sheik. Its nice to see a movie like this made with care. It never gets stupid, and, while it moves quickly, it isn't too fast, either. The director is Joe Johnston, whom I think is an undervalued filmmaker who specializes in these kinds of enjoyable yarns. His previous films include Jurassic Park 3, which is my favorite of that series, Jumanji, The Rocketeer, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, as well as episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which I loved in my tween years. He also made October Sky, which I haven't seen, but has been recommended. The film also features good performances from Zuleikha Robinson, soon to be a star, I'm sure, Louise Lombard, and Adam Alexi-Malle, one of my favorite character actors (he was the guy who wrote Chubby Rain in the movie Bowfinger). 8/10.
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