Kevin Costner’s Horizon: An American Saga branded ‘dullest cinematic vanity project’ by critics

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Kevin Costner’s self-financed passion project, Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1, has been torn apart by critics following its world premiere at Cannes Film Festival on Sunday (19 May).

Horizon, which Costner has directed, co-written and stars in, is a four-part Western drama spanning 15 years amidst the American Civil War.

An American Saga – Chapter 1 also features Sienna Miller, Jamie Campbell Bower (Stranger Things), Ella Hunt (Anna and the Apocalypse), Sam Worthington (Avatar), Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), Jena Malone (Love Lies Bleeding) and Costner’s 15-year-old son, Hayes.

Speaking to the press after the screening, Costner, 69, revealed he mortgaged one of his four properties in order to fund the movie. The Yellowstone alum admitted he’s on track to spend $98m of his own money on the first three movies. By the time he’s done with the fourth, he said he will have surpassed $100m.

Of the difficulty he faced trying to finance the movie, Costner told reporters: “I don’t know why it was so hard to get people to believe in the movie that I wanted to make.

“You know, I don’t think my movie is better than anybody else’s movie, but I don’t think anybody else’s movie is better than mine. I don’t go out into the world with something I don’t think is good.”

Despite the enormous sums of money Costner has risked to make the films, Chapter 1 was not well-received in early reviews.

Kevin Costner attends the ‘Horizon: An American Saga' Red Carpet at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival (Getty Images)
Kevin Costner attends the ‘Horizon: An American Saga' Red Carpet at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival (Getty Images)

“The film moseys blankly along and, aside from some mildly diverting moments, it spends 180 keeping you guessing as to when and whether it is going to be interesting,” wrote Peter Bradshaw in his two-star review for The Guardian.

“As a stand-alone film (which it isn’t, but let’s pretend for a moment), Horizon is by turns convoluted, ambitious, intriguing, and meandering. But it’s never quite moving. It’s too busy laying down narrative tracks and hammering out the minutiae of situations that don’t feel like they’re leading anywhere special,” Variety’s Owen Gleiberman said.

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney called the film “a clumsy slog beyond saving”, adding: “It plays like a limited series overhauled as a movie, but more like a hasty rough cut than a release ready for any format.”

IndieWire’s Ryan Lattanzi declared: “Costner flattens the American West with the dullest cinematic vanity project of the century.”

“Unfortunately, Horizon is far from stately, or even coherent. A jumble of clichéd plots rendered in washed-out color (and washed-out performances), Horizon may rival [Francis Ford Coppola’s] Megalopolis as the biggest American boondoggle at this year’s Cannes,” argued Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson.

The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, meanwhile, had a more optimistic view of the movie. “The film is earnest yet hopeful, with crisply drawn characters – but perhaps its full grandeur won’t be fully realised until part two,” he wrote in his four-star review.

Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1 will debut in cinemas on 28 June, followed by Chapter 2 on 16 August.