Film Review #2: “Killers of the Flower Moon”

  • Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone
  • Directed by: Martin Scorsese
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 3 hrs 26 mins
  • Paramount Pictures


“Killers of the Flower Moon” is one of the most audacious, sprawling epics director Martin Scorsese has ever created. With 10 Oscar nominations under its belt, including Best Picture, Director, and Actress, “Flower Moon” is a film every American should see to get a better understanding of the atrocities that have committed upon Native peoples. (Ideally, Americans would also go out and do research on their own to learn more.) Compelling and revolting at the same time, Scorsese’s work is filled with unforgettable performances, terrific dialogue, and wonderful homages to the Osage people of Oklahoma.


The story’s details are mostly common knowledge at this point so, in brief, it is based upon the praised, groundbreaking 2017 historical work “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by American journalist David Grann. The book detailed the multiple murders of Osage people in Osage County, Oklahoma during the 1920s as part of a scheme orchestrated by cattleman William King Hale (Robert De Niro) to gain access to their oil headrights. A key part of this was Hale’s nephew, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) marrying Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone in a performance for the ages) so that Hale could eventually get access to her family’s wealth, which was done by methodically killing off her relatives one by one. The scheme begins to unravel after an agent (Jesse Plemons) with the Bureau of Investigation, the forerunner of the F.B.I., arrives in the area to investigate the murders.


A common criticism of “Flower Moon” is its length and its supposed slow pacing. Perhaps it’s the age-old beauty-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder thing, but to chop anything out of this story would have been a disservice to the Osage people, with whom Scorsese reportedly worked extensively with to get his film as accurate as possible. It’s impressive that he got in as much detail as he did, although it does, like even the best historical films do, take bits of dramatic license here and there. Now, could it have been told more from an Osage point of view rather than focusing more on Hale and Ernest, probably, but this dark story does a wonderfully nuanced job of delving into the complexities of Ernest and Mollie’s relationship.


It may sound ageist, but Scorsese unfortunately adhered more towards loyalty to his usual stable of actors rather than getting his story even more accurate. DiCaprio, who was 46 during production, is not believable as someone who just returned from World War I, especially since the real Ernest was 27 at the time. While Gladstone, who should be a lock to win an Oscar for Best Actress, is similar in age to Mollie, 78-year-old DeNiro was portraying someone who was 45 in 1919. Still, the two veteran actors’ performances are strong enough to overlook this disparity.


Overall, while you may have to put it on pause to go to the bathroom at some point, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is too important of a story about a dark chapter in America’s history to be missed or overlooked.


“Killers of the Flower Moon” receives four-and-a-half stars out of five.

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