Critics Debate Kevin Costner’s Horizon: Epic Experience or Flop?

Kevin Costner’s affinity for the frontier has been evident long before his role in Yellowstone. Having directed and starred in films like Dances with Wolves and Open Range, his latest project might be his most heartfelt yet. Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter One arrived in theaters on June 28, drawing a wide range of critical responses.

Despite a stellar cast featuring Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, Giovanni Ribisi, Jena Malone, and Luke Wilson, initial reactions to the epic Western have been mixed. Our critic, Mike Reyes, praises this first part of the saga for its solid groundwork, rating it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Reyes noted the film’s ability to entice viewers naturally, remarking on its classic cinematic storytelling.

“Kevin Costner and his collaborators know not to fall into the trap with Horizon: An American Saga’s first chapter. It naturally entices the audience into wanting more. By the time the tease for Chapter 2 arrived at the end, I was grinning ear to ear with excitement. So far, Horizon: An American Saga presents itself as an all-out cinematic experience that tells a story so classically cinematic, it’s hard not to admire the results while waiting to see what’s next.” — Mike Reyes

James Mottram of TotalFilm also rated it 4 out of 5 stars, describing Horizon as a slow burn on a grand scale. He highlighted Costner’s skillful weaving of an absorbing ride into the Old West.

“Scripted by Costner and Jon Baird, running at three hours, Chapter 1 is as unhurried as they come. It takes considerable relish in establishing characters who, in some cases at least, have much more story to tell. Among those that intrigue are Sam Worthington’s dashing United States Army First Lt. Trent Gephardt… Further texture comes courtesy of sturdy turns from Danny Huston, Will Patton, and Michael Rooker.” — James Mottram

Helen O’Hara of Empire was more reserved, giving it 3 out of 5 stars. She appreciated the stunning landscapes and performances but criticized the portrayal of the settlers and the film’s episodic nature.

“Really, it’s a series of vignettes: an attack, a stand-off, a chase, a comedy skit. Some are thrilling or funny; others drag. Yet after three hours, most of our presumptive leads are still to see the titular town of Horizon, or meet one another…” — Helen O’Hara

Conversely, Nicholas Barber of BBC rated the movie only 1 star out of 5, calling it a “numbingly long, incoherent disaster.” He criticized the movie’s structure and character development.

“Costner simply hasn’t shaped the material into any kind of distinct entity. The various storylines barely get started before he presses the pause button. It’s like the tantalizing pilot episode of a television series – but a pilot episode that drags on and on for three hours.” — Nicholas Barber

Owen Gleiberman of Variety pointed out that Horizon struggles as a standalone film, as it focuses on establishing a narrative foundation that doesn’t advance effectively.

“The real problem is the script (by Costner and Jon Baird), which is shapeless. It doesn’t weave these stories together; it stacks them next to each other like a series of cabooses. Yet I think the idea is that the design of it all will come into focus as we see Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 2 (later this year), and then, at some point, Chapter 3.” — Owen Gleiberman

While the trailer highlights Horizon’s grand scale, some critics think the visuals do not compensate for a cohesive story. Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter One is now in theaters, with Chapter Two set for release on August 16, 2024.

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Wrapping Up

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