‘Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1’ Review: The Beauty, and the Bloodshed (2024)



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In the first of a projected four-film cycle, Kevin Costner revisits the western genre and U.S. history in a big, busy drama.

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‘Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1’ Review: The Beauty, and the Bloodshed (1)

By Manohla Dargis

Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1
Directed by Kevin Costner
Drama, Western
3h 1m

Midway through Kevin Costner’s big, busy, decentered western “Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1,” the actor Danny Huston delivers a brief speech. The year is 1863 — two years into the Civil War — and his character, a colonel in charge of a military fort in the southwest, is discoursing on a nearby settlement called Horizon. Apaches have recently burned the hamlet to the ground, killing scores of settlers. You simply need look at the land, the colonel says, to see why the newcomers will keep coming.

“You may recall that’s what drove us across the ocean to this country in the first place.”

Huston, an imposing presence with a rich, sepulchral voice that can suggest depths, delivers this nod at Manifest Destiny with arid sobriety. His words certainly sound meaningful yet this reference to American expansionism just hangs in the air, untethered from history or ideology. Given this nod as well as the film’s large scale, crowded cast, multiple story lines and nearly three-hour run time, it’s reasonable to assume that Costner will add context, commentary or, really, anything. Yet all that’s clear from “Chapter 1,” the lead-in for his splashily publicized four-film cycle, is that the land was vast and beautiful, and everyone wanted a piece.

“Chapter 1” is the first movie that Costner has directed since his 2003 western “Open Range,” an earnest period drama about free-grazing cattlemen facing down a wealthy rancher. What’s striking about that film, beyond how Costner draws from so many different genre touchstones — John Ford, Clint Eastwood and Sam Peckinpah, among others — is how he tries to honor old-fashioned westerns that he so clearly loves while also complicating the myth of the American West through his character, a violence-haunted gunfighter.

A version of that same man — tough, terse, good with a gun, not bad with the little ladies and now named Hayes Ellison — rides into “Chapter 1” about an hour in, handsomely framed against a bright blue sky. What takes him so long? Given how the movie plays like an extended prologue, I suspect that Costner timed his entrance for a four-part project rather than for a stand-alone film. That makes it tough to get a handle on precisely what he’s up to here, other than gesturing at history, re-engaging with an archetypically American genre and readying the foundation for an epic that will continue when “Chapter 2” opens in August.

Written by Costner and Jon Baird, “Chapter 1” features uneven lines of action that jump across the map, from the southwest to the Territory of Wyoming. In one section, bad men with good cheekbones, their dusters trimmed with animals skins à la Gladiatorial Rome, chase after a righteously violent woman (Jena Malone in a lively, credible turn). In time, they end up in one of those frontier towns with muddy streets and desperate characters, a sinkhole where Hayes rides in with some gold and exits with Marigold (Abbey Lee), a lady of the evening (and afternoon). In another section, Luke Wilson leads a wagon train peopled with tough Americans, Laplander goons and two British twits itching for some punishment.

The story line that revs up the action centers on the settlement, a riverfront hamlet on a ribbon of green that winds through the desert and has attracted the attention of a tribe of White Mountain Apache led by Tuayeseh (Gregory Cruz). Soon after the movie opens, the settlers are swinging their partners to fiddles like good John Ford folk; not long after, many are dead, cut down by Apaches. Among the survivors are the newly widowed, impeccably manicured Frances Kittredge (Sienna Miller) and her daughter, Elizabeth (Georgia MacPhail), who take refuge in the fort. There, they meet a first lieutenant, Trent Gephart (Sam Worthington), a thoughtful soul who refers to Native Americans as Indigenous.

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‘Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1’ Review: The Beauty, and the Bloodshed (2024)


How did Kevin Costner's movie Horizon do? ›

There's just one problem: No one went to see it. This past weekend, “Horizon” opened with only $11.3 million against a $100 million budget. The second movie in Costner's planned Civil War-era trilogy is already scheduled for an Aug. 16 release.

Is Horizon a good movie? ›

While Costner has nothing but love for the movie, critics and audiences have been mixed. Critics have branded it with a Rotten designation through the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. It sits at a dismal 46% Tomatometer score at the time of writing, which is in sharp contrast with the relatively positive audience score.

How many chapters is Horizon an American saga? ›

Movie Review: “Horizon: An American Saga-Chapter 1” serves as the first entry in Kevin Costner's 4-part western epic.

How to watch the Horizon movie? ›

Which Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1 is still currently in theaters if you want to experience all the film's twists and turns in a traditional cinema. But there's also now an option to watch the film at home. As of November 25, 2024, Which Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1 is available on HBO Max.

How much money did Kevin Costner put into Horizon? ›

Variety reports that Costner spent $38 million of his own money to finance Horizon, while two private investors contributed to the rest of the production budget. On top of that, Variety noted, Costner and his investors footed the $30 million bill for Horizon's P&A.

Is Horizon an American saga based on a true story? ›

Kevin Costner's western epic has a fictional story—but is rooted in some very real Civil War-era history. Horizon: An American Saga - Official Trailer (Warner Bros.)

What is the movie Horizon going to be about? ›

"In the great tradition of Warner Bros. Pictures' iconic Westerns, 'Horizon: An American Saga' explores the lure of the Old West and how it was won—and lost—through the blood, sweat and tears of many," read a synopsis from Warner Bros.

What is Horizon: An American Saga about? ›

What age is appropriate for Horizon? ›

Great game for 11 and up

Seemingly perfect as all themes are appropriate for most children although the games difficulty and the complexity of the main story is targeted at kids 11 and up. Overall very positive and my children enjoyed it thoroughly.

How long is Horizon chapter 1? ›

Parents need to know that Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1 is an epic Western directed by and starring Kevin Costner, the first of four proposed films. At three hours long (and still left off as "to be continued"), it has a meandering, sometimes confusing quality, but it may appeal to some viewers.

What year is Horizon set? ›

The story of Horizon Zero Dawn begins in the year 3040, however, so there is a millennium of events to explain how the state of the world deteriorated to become that which protagonist Aloy is familiar with.

Is the Horizon series a trilogy? ›

The series consists of two main games: Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Forbidden West, alongside a spin-off VR title, Horizon Call of the Mountain. A spin-off game, in collaboration with Lego, is announced for release later in 2024 for PS5, Windows, and Nintendo Switch.

Is horizon coming to Netflix? ›

A few days later, Roundtree reported that Blackman's two in-development series, Horizon Zero Dawn and an original show, Orbital, were now no longer moving forward.

Where can I stream Horizon: An American Saga? ›

But there's also now an option to watch the film at home. As of November 25, 2024, Which Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1 is available on HBO Max. Only those with a subscription to the service can watch the movie.

Where does the movie horizon take place? ›

The plot centers around fictional characters and takes place in pre- and post-Civil War America, and details the exploration of the American West. Depicting a twelve-year span, the movies feature an ensemble cast portraying various characters and their experiences pioneering into new territory from their homes.

How much money has the Horizon movie made? ›

That means to recoup the $30 million Costner invested in marketing the first "Horizon" movie, it will have to make north of $65 million domestically. (Right now, it's made $11 million.) We haven't even started talking about profit yet.

Is the movie Horizon directed by Kevin Costner? ›

Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1 is a 2024 American epic Western film directed and produced by Kevin Costner from a screenplay he co-wrote with Jon Baird, based on an original story by the pair and Mark Kasdan.

What is the point of Event Horizon movie? ›

Plot. In 2047, a distress signal is received from the Event Horizon, a starship that disappeared during its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri seven years earlier. The ship mysteriously reappears in orbit around Neptune, and the rescue vessel Lewis and Clark is dispatched to investigate.


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