KSL MOVIE SHOW

KSL Movie Show review: ‘Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1’ is a raw view of the American West’s expansion

Jun 28, 2024, 1:00 PM

Horizon An American Saga poster next to ksl movie show host steve salles...

"Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1" delivered a raw, brutally honest, rugged, determined view of the expansion of the American West.

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — I’m a big fan of Kevin Costner. I’ve enjoyed his movies and “Yellowstone” series enormously, with few exceptions. I even liked “Waterworld,” for heck’s sake! So when he says he sunk his heart and soul into this “Horizon” project, I believe him.

Having just spent three hours in a theater mostly full of devoted moviegoers, I have to say he delivered a raw, brutally honest, rugged, determined view of the expansion of the American West.

Is it entertaining? A lot of it. Does it occasionally feel awkward and scattered? That is also true.

The question is — will a mainstream audience be thrilled or exhausted after having sat through this basic set-up of a number of storylines apparently all leading to a dramatic conclusion in a place called Horizon?

The answer? Some will and some won’t. 

And it’s not the subject material or the locations — they’re all poignant and picturesque. It’s the way it’s told so far. It’s a lot to ask of an audience and at least you’ve got to give Costner credit for having the guts to see his vision through — again, so far.

He’s asking us to sit through three more movies that hopefully will tie a number of stories together. I’ll try to break them down. 

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The film begins with surveyors mapping out plots of pristine land in the so-called San Pedro Valley in 1859. 

A guy named Pickering, played by Giovanni Ribisi in Chapter 2, has been selling these fake parcels to hopeful settlers looking to go West for greater opportunities. The only problem is this is Apache territory and the more volatile members of the tribe are only too eager to eradicate the “white-eyes,” — cue the horrific massacre — while the wise chief had wished calmer heads had prevailed.  

The U.S. Cavalry eventually shows up led by Lt. Trent Gephardt (Sam Worthington) and Sgt. Major Thomas Riordan (Michael Rooker.) They certainly sympathized with the burned-out village and remaining settlers but maintained that attempting to build a settlement at a vital Apache river crossing so far from a U.S. Fort, was a fool’s errand.  

In the aftermath of the massacre, Frances Kittredge (Sienna Miller) and her daughter Elizabeth (Georgia MacPhail) are discovered alive amidst the rubble and taken back to the fort for recovery and safekeeping.  Frances has also caught the eye of the gentlemanly lieutenant.

Meanwhile, in the Montana territory, the embattled wife Ellen (Jena Malone) of the meanest of the infamous Sykes boys, James (Charles Halford) makes a mad dash after putting two bullets in her husband. 

The rest of the Sykes boys, Ben, Junior and crazy Caleb (Jamie Campbell Bower) are sent to track her down and retrieve James’ son. Their search takes them to Wyoming, where Hayes Ellison (Kevin Costner) and his boys also just happen to be passing through the same small town.

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We’re an hour into this movie and this is the first time we see Kevin Costner, as a mild-mannered horse trader among other unnamed skills. He’s propositioned by Marigold (Abbey Lee) who is supposed to be watching the sought-after boy, but crazy Caleb is also headed in the same direction.

He and Hayes have a loud discussion. Hayes, Marigold and the heir kid flee, with the other Sykes brothers hot on their heels.

We haven’t even gotten to the wagon train led by Capt. Van Weyden (Luke Wilson). They too appear to be heading to this mysterious nirvana of the plains — Horizon. 

Believe me, I’ve just scratched the surface. And beneath that surface is some intense cruelty from all sides. 

Writer/director Costner is trying to show us that the taming of the Old West was not for sissies, in fact, not even for semi-tough people.  

And this is just Chapter 1.

But just in case you’re wondering what’s next, Costner gives us a rather lengthy montage of what amounts to “scenes of upcoming episodes of Horizon” before the closing credits.

It’s different, but just out there enough to make me want to come back for more. But there had better be a pay-off in the not-too-distant future, or I fear, audiences and myself included, will simply move on. 

HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA – CHAPTER 1 (B) Rated R for violence, some nudity and sexuality. Starring Kevin Costner, Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, Michael Rooker, Owen Crow Shoe and Jena Malone. Co-written and directed by Kevin Costner (“Dances With Wolves” “Open Range”) – filmed in Utah. Running time: 3hrs.1min. 

The KSL Movie Show with Andy Farnsworth and Steve Salles airs Fridays on KSL NewsRadio from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow the show on Facebook, and join The KSL Movie Show Club for exclusive perks by texting MOVIE to 57500.

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KSL Movie Show review: ‘Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1’ is a raw view of the American West’s expansion