Murder in Osage Nation: a Killers of the Flower Moon review

By Caitlin MacDonald

Can you find the wolves in this picture?

Martin Scorsese once again returns to the big screen with his latest feature, Killers of the Flower Moon. Based on the novel with the same name, the film details the very real and very carefully planned murders of the Osage people. Once again, Leonardo DiCaprio, playing Ernest Burkhart, is our star here, making this his sixth film with Scorsese. Included in the cast are Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro (back for his tenth Scorsese collaboration), Jesse Plemons as well as a carousel of both Indigenous American actors and country singers to flesh out the rest of the Osage Nation. Every performance here, whether a monologue or a single throwaway line, is airtight. The sum of its parts and much, much more.

The film boasts a lengthy runtime of 206 minutes, and unlike this year’s Oppenheimer (which had a similar runtime), you feel every minute of it. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing—in Flower Moon’s case, it lends to the story itself. Slow, dragged on, meticulous, and above all else, inescapable—just like the poisonings that took place on the Osage reservation in the 1920s.

The crux of Killers of the Flower Moon is undoubtedly Lily Gladstone, who plays Molly Burkhart and who the film hinges on. Gladstone holds her own against the likes of DiCaprio and De Niro and in some ways, exceeds them. Her performance is nothing short of haunting, a woman surrounded by such unimaginable and insurmountable evil. Gladstone, who was considering quitting acting before landing an interview with Scorsese, demands your attention; she is the living, beating heart of both the film and the story. Her scenes with DiCaprio are just pure wicked magnetism, hypnotic. They’re made even more gut-wrenching when you remember (spoilers) the scheme that Ernest has been roped into by his uncle, Bill ‘King’ Hale—to systematically poison and kill Mollie’s family so that her head rights money goes to him.

While the film does not shy away from violence and suffering, including multiple scenes where different Osage people are murdered for their head rights to the oil-rich land they live on (one scene in particular gives The King of Comedy a run for its black comedy), Flower Moon’s ending deals with the commodification of violence itself, Scorsese’s own commentary on the recent boom in true crime, how we engage in these stories. This ending also shows us how much Scorsese has grown as a filmmaker. 15 films ago, the end scene from Flower Moon would’ve been text on-screen, maybe as a saxophone plays out to the credits. Here, Scorsese makes his regular cameo and presents the ending as a radio play, finishing with that poignant line: “There were no mentions of the murders.”Killers of the Flower Moon is certainly Scorsese’s magnum opus, a culmination of his years of experience in the industry as well as his natural talent. It doesn’t feel like an 80-year-old man made it but at the same time, only an 80-year-old man could’ve made this film on this scale. Cinema is back.


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