The story is very loosely based on the real-life adventures of Frank T. Hopkins, a former Pony Express rider who had a reputation as one of the finest horsemen in the late 19th Century. I really enjoyed this film, especially the tremendous performance by Mortenson. I doubt that most Arabs spoke perfect English in 1890, and women were certainly not as "liberated" as portrayed in the movie, but if you can see past these minor faults, Hidalgo is a thrilling adventure.
Looking back at some of my previous movie reviews, it seems I often repeat my praise for Disney's AVC encodes, and Hidalgo is no exception. The transfer looks fantastic, with excellent depth and detail. Color saturation is natural, whether we're in America, where green is predominant, or the orange and yellow landscape of the Arabian desert. There is the occasional soft shot here and there, but this may be due to the original print. The black levels look very good overall, although there are a few scenes that don't have the inkiest of blacks.
The audio raises the quality of this presentation to the next level with a 5.1-channel PCM soundtrack (4.6Mbps). The dynamics are superior, especially during the racing sequences, when the LFE channel shakes the foundation. Dialog intelligibility is never an issue, and the aggressive use of the surround channels adds depth to the soundstage, although there are a few scenes in which they are a bit too aggressive and overpower the action on the screen.
For a movie with the epic scope of Hidalgo, I expected the bonus features to be a bit more robust. Unfortunately, they are all in standard definition, having been ported over from the DVD release. The first feature is "Sand and Celluloid," which runs nine minutes and talks about how difficult production in the desert was. The next feature, "America's First Horse," runs 22 minutes and offers a well-done documentary on the history of the mustang horse and its impact on America.
Catalog titles are tough to recommend if someone already owns the DVD, but Disney is making the choice a bit easier with a $10 rebate for previous owners. I really enjoyed this film for the scenery, the story, and the phenomenal performance turned in by Mortensen. Recommended.
Release Date: April 1, 2008
Film: 8.0 out of 10
Picture: 8.5 out of 10
Sound: 9.0 out of 10
Sony PlayStation 3
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)
Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector