Hidalgo arrives on Blu-ray with a theatrically correct 2.40:1 1080P transfer. This rendition really is rather a strange one. The picture impresses for the vast majority of the film, but then suddenly some scenes seem to let the whole package down quite dramatically.
The first thing to mention is the colour. A film like this, that relies on landscape and scenery a lot, needs to have vibrant colour - and this transfer certainly doesn't disappoint. The oranges of the desert are vibrant and deep, the blue of the sky (an era before oil corrupted the natural aerial view in the middle east) is intense, and blacks are deep and inky. The level of detail is generally superb, with distant hills and dunes really standing out and giving the viewer that all important 3D pop.
In addition to this, close up detail is also deep. Whether it is the horse's coat, or the sand whirling through the area during a desert storm, this is certainly an impressive transfer.
So far, then, all seems to be well - so why do I have reservations? Well, there are scenes which seem almost drained of everything that makes an HD transfer great. There are maybe five or six scenes which seem notably softer than the rest of the film, and that seem to lack the level of detail. It should be noted that this is very likely to be a result of the source rather than this transfer - however, I cannot confirm this for sure having never seen the film on any other format. Whatever the reason for this is, it is enough to make the transfer lose a mark.
The film is presented on Blu-ray with a PCM 5.1 mix, and this is generally much more consistent than the video.
The dialogue is firmly and pleasantly anchored to the center, allowing the words to clearly enunciate regardless of what else the soundtrack may be throwing at the viewer at the same time. The front stereo separation is wide and vibrant, truly enveloping the listener into the events on screen.
The LFE is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the soundtrack. It is not overbearing, but does really give the viewer a punch during scenes of horses galloping. It is almost percussive in it's effect - truly adding a visceral feel to the races, as a good soundtrack should.
The rears, too, are used often throughout the film to truly involve the viewer, but sadly this is the one area of the film that does seem rather lacking, in a similar way to Disney's PCM soundtrack for Con Air. The problem is one that most will probably not notice, but the lack of directionality in the rears is a minor annoyance. The sound designers don't seem to concentrate on creating precise direction for sound in the rear, instead just launching a maelstrom of noise from the back. This, I stress is a minor detail that many wont notice, but it is a shame when the directionality in the front is so good - that this isn't matched in the rears.
Sadly, the Blu-ray of Hidalgo arrives with very little indeed in the terms of added value. All we get is a nine minute, shallow EPK featurette Sand and Celluloid and a slightly better 22 minute featurette America's First Horse. This covers the history of the Mustang, a subject I have little interest in - so I did find it a bit of a trial. It is certainly informative though - and horse fans will probably revel in it. We also get two previews - for the National Treasure and Narnia sequels.
I really enjoyed Hidalgo - far more than I thought I would. It is an excellent film that takes an alledgedly true story and runs with it, presenting a tortured character who goes through a believable developmental cycle. My enjoyment may well stem from the extensive period I spent living and working in the middle east, but I would wager that anyone who has an interested in good ol' fashioned adventure movies will have an absolute field day with this.
The disc comes with inconsistent video, and a superb audio track - although it sadly skimps on extras. The film itself was not a success commercially, but most reading this would readily agree that box office does not necessarily equal quality. If you like Lawrence of Arabia or the rip roaring adventure of the Indy series could do far worse than pick a copy of this up.
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