Review (Scott McCutcheon 27/06/24)

The background to the development of Horizon: An American Saga is nearly as interesting as the film itself. Devised by Kevin Costner as a four part series of films way back in 1988 it’s taken until 2024 and about 38 million dollars of Costner’s own money, if you believe the stories, to reach the screen.

Premiering at Cannes earlier this year, Part Two is planned to premiere at the Venice Film Festival before a wide release in August. Horizon: An American Saga Chapter One feels like a step back in time to the glory days of Hollywood.

Grand in both scope and cast, Horizon: An American Saga owes much to the westerns of the past. Similarities to the likes of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950) and, especially, How The West Was Won (1962) is, given Costner’s love of the western, probably no coincidence.

If you have seen How the West Was Won then you will be in familiar territory as it bears the same episodic storyline, none of the stories mix but I’m sure that will change in part two, as the 1962 classic. And like the aforementioned How the West Was Won just about every role is filled with a star name.

Beginning in Arizona in 1859 where Sienna Miller’s Frances Kittredge who, left a widow after an Indian attack on her encampment, finds herself and her daughter rescued by a dashing cavalry officer (Sam Worthington). Meanwhile somewhere else in the west, and in a completely unrelated storyline Matthew Van Weyden (Luke Wilson) is driving a wagon train across the prairies. While up in the mountains Ellen Harvey (Jena Malone) is on the run after shooting a man as he lay in his bed.

Costner plays Hayes Ellison a trader who might be more than he seems. It takes about an hour before Costner’s character makes an appearance and it’s the kind of role that John Wayne would have played when he was the king of the westerns.

The Horizon of the title is a town where everyone seems to be desperate to get to. That part of the story is pretty thin and will no doubt become pivotal to the story as more chapters are released.

It’s hard to be critical of Horizon: An American Saga Chapter One as it pretty much feels like a long set up for what’s coming next, there’s even an extended preview of Part Two at the end. That part is probably best avoided unless you want to see scenes that might just be spoilers.

Horizon: An American Saga Chapter One is a terrific old fashion western, is it a masterpiece? Time will tell but given the taster we have had in chapter one I for one wouldn’t be betting against it.


Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1

Director: Kevin Costner
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jena Malone, Dale Dickey

UK/US Release: Cinemas 28th June 2024