Horizon, An American Saga, Part 1: Review

As a devoted fan of the Western genre, I was thrilled when I learned that Kevin Costner, renowned for his iconic works like Dances with Wolves, was directing Horizon: An American Saga Part 1. Anticipation was high, and I pre-purchased my tickets the moment they became available. As the first installment of a four-part epic, I understood its narrative development might differ from a typical standalone film. However, despite my enthusiasm, I was somewhat disappointed with this initial chapter.

Without revealing any spoilers, it’s important to note that the movie establishes several storylines, each shedding light on different facets of Western expansion. These threads are presumably designed to interweave throughout the subsequent installments. With that context in mind, here’s an overview of what worked well and what fell short in this ambitious opening segment.

The Positives

Under the subtitle “An American Saga,” it’s evident that Kevin Costner aims to craft a comprehensive narrative of America’s formative years. The storylines introduced in this first episode encompass virtually every dimension of Western expansion and the nation’s birth. The film delves into the conflict between settlers venturing west and the native populations already inhabiting those lands. It also explores the military’s role during the Civil War, the allure of the “Wild West” that attracted men seeking unrestrained vices, and the relentless pursuit of profit and expansion that has significantly shaped human history.

The movie excels at portraying the arduous realities of life in this era for nearly everyone involved. It vividly depicts the brutality, vulnerability to harsh environmental conditions, and the immense labor required to survive in the West. Additionally, Costner’s attention to historical accuracy is evident through numerous subtle details that enrich the narrative.

The film’s costumes, sets, and visuals meet the high standards expected of a great Western, immersing viewers in the period’s authentic atmosphere.

Most importantly, the story itself is compelling, though occasionally fragmented and jarring. Despite this, it piques my curiosity about what lies ahead. The uniqueness of the narrative is particularly noteworthy, especially in an era where Hollywood is saturated with reboots and recycled storylines.

Why I Was Disappointed

Despite its ambitious scope, *Horizon: An American Saga Part 1* has several shortcomings that left me disappointed.

Firstly, the writing leaves much to be desired. The dialogue often feels forced, and some conflicts lack coherence. Several plot points are hard to follow, making it unclear why characters make certain decisions or why the story takes unexpected turns. Characters occasionally appear out of nowhere, causing significant events without any logical buildup. Moreover, there are substantial time jumps that, while not inherently problematic, are executed poorly. It’s not always evident that time has passed, nor is it clear why characters’ motivations have shifted so drastically between scenes. (I’m intentionally vague to avoid spoilers.)

Furthermore, the characters fail to elicit any genuine investment. Although I’m curious about the overall storyline, I find it hard to care about any individual character. The absence of a true protagonist and the presence of weak antagonists make it challenging to connect with the narrative. Ironically, the weakest plotline centers around Costner’s own character, Hayes Ellison. Introduced over an hour into the film, Ellison seems intended to embody the quintessential loner cowboy, reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name.” However, Ellison’s actions neither establish him as a formidable gunman nor a principled hero worth rooting for. His behavior is largely inexplicable, and the limited screen time devoted to his story leaves his role underdeveloped and unclear.

The acting also falls short. Perhaps due to weak scripts, many actors seem more like performers than believable characters. They don’t fully immerse the audience in their roles, which detracts from the authenticity of the narrative.

Visually, the film disappoints as well. While Westerns are renowned for their epic, cinematic quality and distinct color grading, this movie feels more like a high-budget television mini-series. In spite of the script’s intent to highlight the harsh conditions and immense adversities faced by those involved in Western expansion, the film visually lacks any real grit. The shots are overly polished and pristine, failing to convey the raw, unforgiving nature of the frontier life. This stylistic choice diminishes the impact of the narrative, making the depicted hardships seem less authentic and tangible. Moreover, the movie lacks the grand, sweeping landscape shots that are a hallmark of the genre. Fans of Westerns revel in those breathtaking panoramas that make the land itself a character. Despite being set in visually stunning locations like Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, and Kansas, the film misses the opportunity to showcase these landscapes effectively, offering only a few brief wide shots instead of the expansive vistas one would expect. 


Despite my initial disappointment, I must reserve final judgment until I see the remaining three installments. I eagerly anticipated a 10 out of 10 experience but found myself settling on a solid 6.5. For now, I’ll round up and give this first part a 7. I remain hopeful that the upcoming chapters will elevate the overall narrative and transform Horizon: An American Saga into the timeless epic that Kevin Costner envisioned.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top