Michael Rooker and Sienna Miller steal the show in cinematic masterpiece Horizon

Michael Rooker and Sienna Miller steal the show in cinematic masterpiece Horizon

July 3, 2024 Off By Shay McBryde

Kevin Costner’s dream project has finally come to a head this past weekend. As Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1, came and went we can only hope to see beyond the Horizon. While the opening movie won’t see record-breaking numbers at the box office, you have to keep in mind the first chapter is simply laying the groundwork for a cinematic masterpiece.

With chapter one in the books there are so many great things to look forward to from Horizon but just a few bad. The bad is still not enough to outweigh the good. From the start of the movie the message is hope for a better life that seemed unimaginable to most. Hayes Ellison (Kevin Costner) along with a slew of many other characters are looking for a better life than the one they have been raptured by. And that’s all we want for our lives. A better world than the one we stepped into. And that is what Horizon is all about.

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Horizon is not a movie for the impatient hearts.  At around 3 hours long you would think Kevin Costner would be the star of the show, but that wasn’t the case. Less than an hour in a 3-hour flick was not much for the Oscar award-winning actor. But I also think that says a lot about the character of Kevin Costner and his devotion to this story. He’s very unselfish in telling the story that he’s been waiting to tell his entire career as an actor, and filmmaker to do.

While there is much story to tell, I think the MVP’s of this first chapter belong to Michael Rooker(Sgt. Major Riordan) and Sienna Miller(Frances Kittredge). They fortunately took the brunt of the story in their hands and both veteran actors carried the weight on their shoulders. Their talent overrode the story, and they were able to capture both my attention and heart as I watched on and learned their history in a deeper form.

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It does seem that at the start, Kevin Costner was hesitant to introduce Hayes Ellison to us, as he took us on a journey across the San Pedro, Montana, and Wyoming territories. As you watch on it makes all the sense in the world. Hayes Ellison is just a part of a huge puzzle piece that makes up Horizon. The whole point of the first chapter is to introduce all the intricate parts of the story. Hayes Ellison (Kevin Costner) is only a small part of that story to start.

Horizon: The moment to break your heart

The most heartbreaking performance was performed by Sienna Miller and Hayes Costner when Nathaniel Kittredgel(Hayes) was put in a hard situation where he had to choose to hide with his mother and young sister Lizzie or be a man and go with his father to protect them to death against the Apache’s. Ultimately, he decided to be honorable and protect his family until he took his last breath.

Where did the name Hayes Ellison come from?

A fun fact is Kevin Costner named his son after the character Hayes Ellison. Costner actually wrote this story 40 years ago.

The most heartbreaking moment of this chapter was Sienna Miller’s daughter Lizzie having to be the one to identify her father and her brother to bury. And if you thought that was heartbreaking, what came next was even worse. Frances held her young son in his arms and said, “it’ll just be for a while.”

Though I do think Nathaniel should have given his poor mother one last dance. I still can’t let that go.

First Lt. Trent Gephardt(Sam Worthington) is an honorable man who Frances Kittredge(Sienna Miller) grows sweet on. But for me, it was a weak performance by Worthington. I had a hard time believing his heroic mentality. The best moment for him was when he doused water on the drunken doctor who was supposed to be giving Frances and Lizzie a checkup. It was a comical moment that fell short.

Horizon: Another typical Kevin Costner love interest

Ellen Harvey (Jena Malone) was the most underrated character in my opinion. But her friend Marigold (Abbey Lee) was definitely the strangest character of the entire movie. She was undoubtedly a game player. From the moment she laid eyes on Hayes (Kevin Costner) she saw him giving some gold to another man. Marigold certainly lives up to her name.

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When I see Marigold I just see another typical Kevin Costner love interest. Yes beautiful, usually much younger. A character who could stand to be stronger and less dependent. There are three more movies to go and we don’t know the fate of Marigold yet, but it would be nice to see a love interest that equally matches one of Kevin Costner’s characters in brains, beauty, and strength.

The Sykes is a major family that comes in to play. Ellen Harvey was a woman who had a baby with James Sykes, and was formerly known as a woman named Lucy. She unwillingly had a child with James Sykes, where she ended up having to steal her child to raise him in love and acceptance.

And finally…Kevin Costner has arrived

That is where Hayes Ellison (Kevin Costner) comes into play. Ellen/Lucy takes off and asks Marigold to babysit. In the process of Hayes coming to visit Marigold, Caleb Sykes (Jamie Campbell Bower) pays Ellison a visit, blocking him from his journey to Marigold. By the time he gets to her, he has shot the man dead. The entire situation definitely gives the impression that Lucy was raped by the father, James Sykes. Early flashbacks say Lucky shot the father and took her child to freedom.

I would not say Marigold is a typical love interest. She is a prostitute who has other selfish needs of her own. While she was caring for Samuel (Lucy’s baby) she gave him away to a Chinese family. The love scene of Ellison and Marigold had been one of the most awkward love scenes I’ve ever seen played out on the big screen. Hayes was not into it any way and barely moved. If the sexes were opposite it would certainly feel like a rape scene. It was not tasteful in any effect.

Whatever is going on with Hayes emotionally is a deep pain he is not ready to talk about.

However, as we further go on, you can see the similarities between Sgt. Riordan and Frances Kittredge. Frances unfortunately lost her son and Riordan tragically lost a daughter. Frances and her daughter Lizzie(Georgia MacPhail) are taken with open arms by both Riordan and Lt. Trent Gephart(Sam Worthington).

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The best takeaways were the cinematography of the movie by J. Michael Muro. He also worked with Kevin Costner on the hit movie Open Range. Another highlight is the score of this opening production by John Debney. I expect only more greatness for Chapter 2. There is a sense of presentation that when you watch and adhere to the music, you lose yourself in the solitude.

The most confusing part of the cinematic experience was at the very end. A montage that explained the connection between all the groups and characters that chapter one was trying to explain. My biggest problem with it was the number of characters in the first chapter and the lack of connection. In the montage, we see all the connections we were missing in the entire 3-hour movie. Of course, it’s a nod to what we will come to expect in the second chapter of Kevin Costner’s dream project. However, it leaves much annoyance to what could have been in round one.

Who is a character to look out for in Chapter 2?

Diamond Kittredge(Isabelle Fuhrman), is the daughter of Frances’ father-in-law Owen (Will Payton). From the start you can see she is a very capable, unconventional woman. She wastes no time-saving men of the group alongside Matthew Van Weyden (Luke Wilson) who is leading a group of settlers on the wagon train across the Santa Fe Trail.

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There were some pacing inconsistencies. Moments that were too drawn out and tedious. It still wasn’t enough to turn me away from the theater. Kevin Costner has a way of locking you on and begging you to know what happens next. It is everything you expect from a western but with enough mystery to ask you several questions. As we anticipate the next chapter, we have enough open space to imagine the never-ending climax that could come.

All in all, there was heartache, semi-romance, unanticipated humor, a lot of tragedy, and developing bonds. There was Native American authenticity that didn’t feel as relevant. You had your typical warriors and your characters who were wise above their years and others who wanted to deservedly fight for what was being taken from them. Barbaric and honorable moments were had on each side.

There was definitely a highlight of white men vs. Native Americans. Especially the Apache Tribe. I’m not sure if I would glorify one side over the other. If there is hope for the rest of the saga, god be with the various tribes that Costner’s crew would have to come across. If they thought the Apache’s were bad…they have much more coming. There should also be much more Black and Chinese representation than was given.

Chapter 1 was a lengthy introduction to the characters who will make up Horizon. As well as the story, there is plenty of action and drama that will keep you from any boredom. Chapter 2 of Horizon: An American Saga will premiere August 16 in a theater near you!


About the author: Shay has been writing as a journalist professionally for years. Her most common topics to cover are dreams and horror but she looks forward to getting her feet wet with new and exciting genres and projects. @SaltLifeShay