REVIEW: Kevin Costner’s ‘Horizon’ Is A Misogynistic, Racist, Retrograde Mess

Luke Wilson, from left, Ella Hunt, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee and Kevin Costner pose together backstage before discussing the film series "Horizon: An American Saga" at The 92nd Street Y on Monday, June 17, 2024, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Early on into the three hours of viewing Kevin Costner’s Horizon: An American Saga—Chapter 1 I thought back to last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where I saw Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon for the first time. That brilliant movie is a full throated condemnation of the genocide of Native Americans by white people who claim the U.S. as their own. Horizon is not that.

Instead, one of the inciting incidents in the unwieldy film that Costner directs is a violent Apache assault on a settlement. The mostly white settlers are portrayed as terrified innocents. Sienna Miller’s Frances hides beneath her house with her similarly blonde daughter (Georgia MacPhail) while her husband and son are murdered.

They are shot in beatific fashion, meanwhile, the Native American assailants are shadowy figures who attack unprovoked. There are nods to nuance that come later, but far too little in the first part of Costner’s passion project, which debuted at the festival. …

There is, separate from all of this, a bit about a group of pioneers in covered wagons in Western Kansas. They are led by Luke Wilson’s Matthew Van Weyden, who has to deal with some fussy Brits played by Ella Hunt and Tom Payne. We also briefly meet an Apache played by Tatanka Means. I assume he will have more to do later, which is also what I can say for most everyone on screen.

The lack of conclusion for any of the characters—except for the ones who die—make it almost impossible to evaluate Horizon without caveats. But at the same time, it is punishing to ask audiences to invest this much time in a theater, especially given that there are apparently three more parts coming. The first two are due to be released this summer, with Chapter 1 in June and Chapter 2 in August.

I’m not sure why Costner didn’t turn this into the television project it so wishes to be. Perhaps he just wanted to one up Yellowstone, the wildly popular Taylor Sheridan show, on which he played John Dutton, and which he decided to leave. But as a cinematic experience it is aggravating in multiple ways. If you’re not mad at how offensively backward it all is, you’ll be pissed about all the stage setting.

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