"Impressive, Sprawling Western Epic"


What You Need To Know:

HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA – CHAPTER 1 is a sprawling western epic, starring and directed by Kevin Costner. A group of settlers starts a small community in the southwest territory near Apache land. The chief’s angry son attacks the settlers in a murder raid. A big battle ensues. The U.S. Army advises the survivors to come live at the fort, because their town is too far away to protect. Meanwhile, enticed by a flyer about the town, called Horizon, a large wagon train travels southwest toward Horizon. Finally, a cowpoke gunfighter ends up protecting a young woman and the baby of her kidnapped friend, who’s presumed dead. They flee the baby’s angry patriarchal family by heading southwest.

Chapter 1 of HORIZON presents an impressive, spectacular vision with exciting, engaging action. It also has several moving moments among some of the characters. The movie takes a pretty even-handed attitude toward the settlers and the Apaches. However, Chapter 1 of HORIZON has intense violence, strong foul language, a brief scene of nudity, and a partially depicted bedroom scene. Chapter 2 is being released Aug. 16.


(BB, C, PP, LLL, VV, SS, NN, A, M):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Moral worldview with some brief Christian content about settlers of all stripes and from all multiple backgrounds entering and traveling to the southwest territory to pursue a better life, with a positive depiction of the U.S. Army, but not all; the settlers have good intentions;

Foul Language:
14 obscenities (no “f” words), four Jesus profanities, 12 GD profanities, and five light profanities;

Strong, sometimes intense violence as woman shoots her abusive husband with a shotgun and rides away with their young child (he survives and orders his two sons to hunt her down and return with the child), one of the brothers pursuing the woman eventually kills her new husband after luring the couple away from town and goes looking for the child in town, man comes upon the bodies of three dead surveyors and buries the bodies, Apache Indians attack the people in a tent city erected on their land, Indians shoot arrows and bash people with tomahawks, a big battle ensues there, Indians attack a family’s nearby cabin where some of the settlers have fled and a long battle ensues there, a gunfight occurs to two men, one of the brothers pursuing the woman kill her husband, and settlers from the tent city come upon an small Indian village and kill the people out of revenge, plus taking some Indian scalps that they can sell for money, but a teenage boy with them is sickened by their behavior;

Brief partially depicted fornication scene with the couple clothed and woman moving on top of man, implied fornication scene as it’s implied the same woman has been with another man, and there’s some light bawdy talk in one scene about a house of prostitution in one town, and a loose young woman tries to entice a cowpoke and gunfighter away from the brothel and to visit her in the cabin where she’s staying, but he never gets there because he’s confronted by a ruthless killer who earlier killed the husband of the woman’s friend;

Upper female nudity when a woman takes a sponge bath at night in a wagon train and notices two men spying on her (the wagon train leader chastises her for being careless and later confronts the two men);

Alcohol Use:
Some alcohol use;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
No smoking or drugs; and,

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Man lies to married couple to give the wife over to two men who’ve been pursuing he woman for months, and a young married English couple in a wagon train are rude and careless.

More Detail:

HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA – CHAPTER 1 is a sprawling western epic, starring and directed by Kevin Costner, about a western town trying to get started in the southwest territory, the people and settlers striving to come there including their trials, and the Apache Indians trying to deal with it all, in good ways and bad ways. The first of two movies, Chapter 1 of HORIZON immerses viewers in a spectacular, impressive vision of the Wild West, but there are violent scenes of Apaches attacking many settlers in a murder raid, settlers seeking bloody revenge and gunfights, plus strong foul language, brief nudity when a woman on a wagon train takes a bath and two brief scenes of a loose woman with two separate men.

The movie opens with three surveyors, including a young boy, staking out the land for a new settlement along a river in the southwest territory, presumably on the Mexican side. They carry with them a flyer about a new settlement called Horizon. A band of Indians arrive and confront them.

Cut to a man coming upon the three dead bodies. He buries them on the Mexican side of the river, by a small tree. However, he sees another, more fulsome tree on the American side of the border.

Four years later, in 1863, the settlement of Horizon has grown into a tent city. Several families, however, have built cabins on the hill overlooking the tent city. In the large tent in the middle of town, the people are enjoying a community dance.

Suddenly, as the sun sets, a bunch of Apache Indians attack the town. A big battle ensues, with the Apaches killing many settlers in cold blood with their bows and tomahawks. The settlers fight back. However, only a few survive, including a newly widowed woman, Frances, and her 15-year-old daughter, a few men and other family members, and a boy who brings back troops from nearby Fort Gallant the next day.

The officer leading the troops, Lt. Trent Gephart, tells the survivors their settlement is too far away for him to provide any protection. He advises them to come to live at or near the fort instead. When some of the survivors complain, he points to the three graves on the other side of the river, telling them that should have given them a clue about the dangers of living in this location.

Frances decides to stay at the fort with her daughter, but a group of men decide to go out hunting for the Apaches that killed their families and friends. The boy who brought in the troops from Fort Gallant decides to go with him. He too wants revenge against the Indians who murdered his family.

Meanwhile, the wise Apache chief, whose tribe has made a home in the nearby mountains, is upset that his eldest son, Pionsenay, led the murderous raid on the settlers of Horizon. He tells Pionsenay he’s fighting a losing battle, but Pionsenay doesn’t agree. So, Pionsenay leaves the tribe with his men to wage war against the white people. The chief’s younger son decides to go with his brother, leaving the chief sad but proud of his sons for knowing who they are.

At the same time or shortly thereafter, a large wagon train of people, is heading toward Horizon. Looking for a better future, they’ve been attracted by all the flyers put out about the place offering free land. Matthew, the leader of the wagon train, has a tough time wrangling the different personalities in the wagon train. He doesn’t want any trouble, because all he wants is to get as many people he can as far as he can.

As the wagon train moves inexorably slowly forward, 14 hours a day, back at the fort, Frances slowly begins a tentative romance with Lt. Gephardt.

At the same time, a woman named Lucy has changed her name to Ellen after wounding her abusive husband in Montana, taking their child and finding refuge in a small mountain town in Wyoming. Ellen has married an ambitious young man, but to survive, they live with a young female boarder, Marigold or “Mari,” who seduces local men in town for money and helps with the baby.

However, Ellen’s former husband has sent his two sons, the hotheaded Caleb and his stronger, older, more level-headed brother, Junior Sykes, to locate and bring back Ellen and the baby. Ellen and her new husband think they’re going to hash out a lucrative real estate deal with a stranger, but the stranger turns out to be Junior. After Caleb murders Ellen’s husband, Junior sends Caleb into town to locate Ellen’s child.

Before going to take care of Ellen’s baby, Mari goes into town and entices Hayes Elison, a visiting cowpoke and gunfighter, to visit her later in the cabin while Ellen and her husband are gone. Hayes debates whether to take up Mari’s offer or visit the local brothel. He decides to visit Mari but gets a shave and bath before he leaves town.

However, on the way up the hill to the cabin, Hayes runs into Caleb. The encounter doesn’t end well, and Hayes finds himself on the run with Mari and the baby from the vengeful Sykes family. They head for the southwest territory.

Chapter 1 of HORIZON presents an impressive, spectacular vision. It also has some moving moments. One of the best is Frances’ teenage daughter giving mementos to some Army troops heading back East to defend the Union in the ongoing Civil War.

That said, a few of the movie’s transitions are too abrupt. Despite the multiple storylines, the movie connects the characters and their stories by the flyer enticing people to come settle in Horizon. The flyers are selling a dream, and that dream is what is drawing the people westward.

Although HORIZON is sympathetic to the dilemma the Indians are facing with the hordes of settlers heading west, it’s not too woke. It also sides with the settlers being attacked and the settlers heading toward Horizon to seek a better life. Whether this will continue in Chapter 2, scheduled to debut on August 16, is anyone’s guess.

Much has been written about the Wild West and the European settlers, Marshals and American soldiers who “tamed” the Wild West. In recent years, there has been some revisionist history, however, that puts lots of blame on white settlers and lifts blame off the American Indians. There was brutality on both sides, however. Also, some of the alleged “massacres” by Indians were false, and some of the alleged “massacres” by American troops were false. For example, when a tribal police officer killed Sitting Bull on the Sioux reservation in 1890, one of Sitting Bull’s men fired first. He shot and mortally wounded the Indian officer trying to arrest Sitting Bull, but the officer shot Sitting Bull dead before the officer hit the ground. Historian Jeff Fynn-Paul restores some balance to the historical record in his 2023 book, NOT STOLEN.

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