Thursday, June 13, 2024

“HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA – CHAPTER 1”

THE STORYSet in the American Civil War period depicting the expansion of the American west.

THE CASTKevin Costner, Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, Giovanni Ribisi, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Michael Rooker, Danny Huston, Luke Wilson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jeff Fahey, Will Patton, Tatanka Means, Owen Crow Shoe, Ella Hunt, Jamie Campbell Bower & Thomas Haden Church

THE TEAMKevin Costner (Director/Writer) & Jon Baird (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 181 Minutes


Try as they might, the Western genre has never been able to have much impact in the modern cinematic marketplace. It continually has been under scrutiny in regard to its relevance. Despite its previous long-running success in the industry, there doesn’t seem to be the same amount of appreciation for this indulgence. It is a shame because, like any backdrop used to convey a sense of story and character, there are incredible opportunities to explore engaging worlds while showcasing impressive visual artistry within the genre. However, no matter what, you can always count on folks like Kevin Costner to remind audiences of the power these films can still have in today’s age. It’s impossible not to feel that passion with “Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1” as so much is packed into this nod to the epics of yesteryear. There’s a lot thrown at the screen that still manages to result in an engrossing experience.

It’s difficult to fully grasp the story because there are so many characters and plot points to track over the vast landscapes. One main focus is on settlers in pre-Civil War America who find themselves looking to establish a settlement deep in the country. After the small group has been set up, the community is attacked by the neighboring Apache tribe, killing almost all the inhabitants. Among the few survivors are Frances Kittredge (Sienna Miller) and her young daughter. They are rescued by the Union cavalry and invited to stay on the regiment, under special guidance by First Lt. Trent Gephardt (Sam Worthington) and Sgt. Major Riordan (Michael Rooker). Another splintered group of the survivors venture outwards to find the party responsible for the attack, with little regard for whatever racial sensitivity it should cost.

There is also a parallel storyline concerning the ruthless Sykes family and tracking down his mistress (Jena Malone), who absconded with their son after nearly killing him. She eventually finds herself in the Wyoming territories and becomes friendly with one of the local prostitutes, Marigold (Abby Lee). It’s here where Marigold’s path crosses with that of Hayes Ellison (Kevin Costner), a stoic stranger whom she feels compelled to befriend. Their meeting turns out to be fortunate since the Sykes clan eventually catches up to snatching their fugitives. Ellison offers to take Marigold and the child and offer his protection. It’s another treacherous journey ahead for this pair, just as every person in this dangerous territory must come to face.

As one can see, a great deal of narrative is exhibited here, and it is no mystery why this is being billed as the first chapter in what is meant to merely set up the foundation of this sprawling story. The disparate environments and scattered characters can leave one with a sense of longing for a richer examination. Arcs are meant to be founded but are not brought to their full conclusion, which is undoubtedly frustrating. The seemingly infinite number of characters to follow can be a dizzying exercise that doesn’t effectively ground the narrative in a meaningful way. It is ultimately hard to judge some of these deficiencies because more developments are coming, which could be excused. Still, even for the purposes of merely table setting, Costner and co-writer Jon Baird struggle to create a more effective atmosphere that allows for such pivotal emotional connections.

Despite all of that, there is still an awe in the beauty that Costner is able to capture in his filmmaking. He communicates a deep reverence for this genre and the grandiose spectacle. Sometimes, that grandiosity is conveyed through the impressive set pieces, like the initial harrowing attack. Sometimes, it is reflected in the sincere emotions on display that speak to the harsh realities of this difficult life. Often, it is reflected in John Debney’s rousing score that elevates every moment to one of energetic proportions. As a director, Costner maintains a magnificent skill of displaying superb aesthetics, crafting thrilling set pieces and tense moments of drama. Even at three hours, the pace is brisk as one location is switched out for another, making for riveting pageantry that is a wonder to behold.

While the film is an ensemble piece, all the performances are working in support of one another but more so working in their own corners of the film. In this endeavor, appreciation may vary on their overall effectiveness, but some standouts do shine through. Miller gives one of her best performances that, on the surface, is a suffering widow but portrays a warmth that is very compelling. Malone delivers a feisty personality that itself is also alluring. Jamie Campbell Bower is having a ton of fun as the sneering villain, embodying a very fun personality. There are some weak points in this cast, such as Luke Wilson, who sadly carries too much of a modern cadence to his voice to sound convincingly from the past, and even Costner himself. To be fair, his entrance almost an hour into the film does show his willingness to share this story, and he has some nice scenes shared with Lee, but he doesn’t do much here to leave a great impression all the same.

Watching “Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1” can feel a bit underwhelming and unfulfilling. There’s no denying that, being only the first part of many. Therefore, many sections are going to feel not thoroughly thought through. Even if you consider this split into multiple entries, the basic framework should accomplish this work. However, the film more than compensates for its craft and scope. There is something almost akin to literature here. Costner opens this world up to dive into a wide range, to travel with this assortment of characters in a realm that gives a platform to a genre that still demands respect. It’s an admirable attempt, and despite many shortcomings, it is a wildly captivating exhibition. The final minutes deliver a fast-paced montage of scenes that will be shown in the second chapter. It’s a promise to continue building onto this enthralling foundation, with more enticing examinations to celebrate the grand scope of the Western gaze.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Delivers a majestic and epic scope that is engrossing to watch unfold. The crafts are all exceptional, particularly the incredible score. The performances have a handful of standouts that make their characterizations captivating.

THE BAD - Being the first of many entries, the emotional arcs being set up are not given a proper conclusion. The sprawling narrative and disparate characters can make connecting to the story difficult. Some of the supporting players don’t make a positive impact.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Original Score

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Delivers a majestic and epic scope that is engrossing to watch unfold. The crafts are all exceptional, particularly the incredible score. The performances have a handful of standouts that make their characterizations captivating.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Being the first of many entries, the emotional arcs being set up are not given a proper conclusion. The sprawling narrative and disparate characters can make connecting to the story difficult. Some of the supporting players don’t make a positive impact.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-original-score/">Best Original Score</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA - CHAPTER 1"