Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1 – The DVDfever Cinema Review – Kevin Costner

Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1 Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1… what a complete kludge of a title, and writer/director Kevin Costner has only been able to put “Chapter 1” in there, because Chapter 2 is already complete, and set to be released in cinemas on August 16th, but given how few people turned out for the opener, will the follow-up be playing to empty theatres?

Well, even if it does, cinemas switch off the projector after 20 minutes when there’s zero bookings, to protect the lamps. The hard drive playing the film will continue until it ends, and then they start again from the next screening.

Before I get on to one aspect that not only I found to be decidedly odd, but even did other cinemagoers, but first, what about a plot? Erm…

Well, I know that it begins in the San Pedro Valley, 1859, with one man marking out a plot of land on which to build a house, and later, we see the Claypole family setting up in Montana in May 1863 – long before they made it to Rentaghost in 1976, and teamed up with Hazel McWitch, who was insanely hot!

However, for the majority of the time, at any point where new characters are brought in screen – which is almost every other scene, for quite some time, there’s no mention of who anyone is, what they’re doing, what is happening, why anything is going on, nor why should we care?

The best description I read of this was in another review, where they stated that this film feels like you’ve started watching from Series 2 Episode 1, with multiple different characters popping in, as if you’re meant to already know who they are. In fact, every scene feels like a bunch of random characters pop along, before they head off and more traipse in.

Occasionally, I saw actors and actresses I’ve heard of, so I just thought, “It’s Sienna Miller” or “It’s him from Avatar” or “It’s Henry, the serial killer“. But in all cases, the acting from everyone is more wooden than the construction of the flammable houses, particularly the latter of the three I mention: Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3) as Sgt. Major Thomas Riordan, putting on the most godawful Oirish accent I’ve ever seen, outside of I’m Alan Partridge.

One hour in, and Kevin Costner turns up, in Wyoming Territory, getting entangled in the life of prostitute Marigold (Abbey LeeOffice Christmas Party). Quite why he’s meant to give a hoot is anyone’s guess, but for most of the characters, everyone shouts or growls at each other, like an extended episode of Eastenders.

Meanwhile, at one point, Apache Indians come and take over the land, killing white families and burning their houses, the same cliché we’ve seen in 100 Westerns, including Costner’s own Dances With Wolves. As such, we get English subtitles as they speak in their own languages, although 55 minutes in, some of them change to English mid-sentence. I guess most cinemagoers would tire of endless subtitles, but it took long enough to get to that point. Even Sean Connery changed tack quite early on, in The Hunt For Red October.

Ultimately, everyone wants to get to Horizon where there’s 150,000 acres of land up for grabs on the Santa Fe Trail, but given that this is just Chapter 1, they don’t even get there in this installment!

In fact, similar to a particular Simpsons episode (which, itself, based its title from the 1994 movie about Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould), this may as well be called “22 Short Films About Horizon“, given how we get a bit of story over here, then shift over there for something else, and then jump about like it’s going out of fashion.

On the plus side, when anyone gets shot in this film, they don’t follow the old cliché of dying instantly. They at least try and put up a fight!

But like most Westerns, why does everyone spit so much?

The last few minutes gives over to a preview of Chapter 2, although unlike every other film or TV series that would do this, Horizon doesn’t even announce that’s what they’re about to do, and you’re left wondering whether we’re watching clips for Chapter 2, or they’re finally just rattling through forgotten bits of Chapter 1’s plot.

Additionally, Giovanni Ribisi is listed in the main cast, even though he pops up in a dialogue-free moment in the very final scene of this preview.

Kevin Costner has said he wants this film series to be the one where families can go to the cinema together to see each installment. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but on the opening weekend, the afternoon screening I watched this was almost dead, and had no families, since they were either in Inside Out 2, or waiting two weeks for Despicable Me 4. Additionally, as it’s a 15-certificate, you’re going to get no-one under that age.

But my main gripe: Why hasn’t this been filmed in the traditional ratio of 2.39:1? Every Western is like that, so it has the widescreen vistas on the big screen! It has some nice visuals, but shooting in 1.85:1 just makes it look like a bog-standard TV afternoon movie on Channel 5, which is also how it felt, given the poor acting, and is where this dross will end up. And since it’s a 15-certificate, the violence will be butchered.

Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 2 is in cinemas from August 16th. I doubt I’ll struggle to care. That said, at least it’ll be a bit shorter, since that one will run for 164 minutes, compared to Chapter 1’s 181 minutes, the same length as Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.

Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1 is in cinemas now, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. However, once announced, it will appear on the New DVD Blu-ray 3D and 4K releases UK list.

Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1 – Official Trailer – Warner Bros

Detailed specs:

Running time: 181 minutes
Release date: June 28th 2024
Studio: Warner Bros
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Redcode RAW (6K, 8K)
Cinema: Odeon Trafford Centre
Rating: 2/10

Director: Kevin Costner
Producers: Kevin Costner, Mark George Gillard, Howard Kaplan
Screenplay: Kevin Costner, Jon Baird
Music: John Debney

Hayes Ellison: Kevin Costner
Frances Kittredge: Sienna Miller
Trent Gephart: Sam Worthington
‘Ellen’ Harvey: Jena Malone
Pionsenay: Owen Crow
Taklishim: Tatanka Means
Juliette Chesney: Ella Hunt
James Kittredge: Tim Guinee
Pickering: Giovanni Ribisi
Col. Albert Houghton: Danny Huston
Chisholm: Colin Cunningham
Elias Janney: Scott Haze
Hugh Proctor: Tom Payne
Marigold: Abbey Lee
Sgt. Major Thomas Riordan: Michael Rooker
Owen Kittredge: Will Patton
Mr. Hong: Jim Lau
Elizabeth Kittredge: Georgia MacPhail
Sig: Douglas Smith
Birke: Roger Ivens
Billy Landry / Flagg James: Larry Bagby
Nathaniel Kittredge: Hayes Costner
Malcolm: Daniel Link
Mrs. Bowman: Claudia Conner
Dr. Bowman: John Coinman
Russell Ganz: Etienne Kellici