Film Review: “Killers of the Flower Moon”


  • Starring:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone
  • Directed by:  Martin Scorsese
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  3 hrs 26 mins
  • Apple Studios


Is there a greater living filmmaker working today than Martin Scorsese?  He has been nominated for a directing Academy Award nine times, second only to William Wyler, who received twelve nods.  A staggering number which should be higher considering he wasn’t nominated for “Taxi Driver.”  I predict that nomination number ten is right around the corner with the release of his latest film, “Killers of the Flower Moon.”


It’s the early 1920’s, and we find members of the Osage Tribe meeting on their land.  Suddenly there is a loud noise as the earth opens up, spewing oil into the air.  That’s right.  Oil.  Black gold.  Texas Tea.  Soon it is the tribe members who are wearing the fanciest of clothes and driving the nicest automobiles.  But when the original rights owners, as they are called, begin to die mysteriously, the government in the form of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation, shows up to find out why.


Newly returned from the Great War, Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) is put to work by his uncle, William Hale (De Niro), who goes by the moniker “King.”  Over the years Hale has been a friend to the Osage people and he is highly regarded by the members of the tribe.  Yet behind that image of caring and kindness lies a darker vision of greed, one that can never be satisfied.  After Ernest finds work driving tribal members around town on their errands, he is encouraged by King to woo  one and marry.  Should anything happen to the missus, the land – and its oil, would go to the husband.  The plan appears to be working when Ernest meets Mollie, who lives with her mother and sisters.  But King never expected Ernest to fall in love.


A sprawling epic, “Killers of the Flower Moon” boasts award winning performances by the three leads, who breathe life into characters that would come off as two dimensional in the hands of lesser actors.  DiCaprio, who has never given a bad performance, supberb as Ernest, a man whose heart and conscious are constantly attacked.  His face in an almost constant frown, all he wants is to make a home for his family.  As Mollie, Ms. Gladstone, a member of the Blackfoot nation, is strong and proud.  She sees what is going on around her yet she refuses to believe her husband is part of the problem.  As for De Niro, as King, he reminds us all why he is regarded as one of the greatest film actors of all time.  King has many faces, and De Niro wears them all, sometimes simultaneously, without skipping a beat.


The script is tight and Scorsese’s pacing keeps the nearly three and a half hour long film moving at a steady pace .  The production values are top notch, with Scorsese once again mastering the look of a period piece.


Even though the events in this film are based on a true story, I must shamefully admit that, as someone that considers himself a history buff, I knew very little about the happenings in Osage County, Oklahoma.  This film is an eye opener as it looks at some of the darker days of this country’s past.


On a scale of zero to five, I give “Killers of the Flower Moon” five stars.      

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