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Killers of the Flower Moon review: Scorsese and DiCaprio deliver yet another cinematic masterpiece

The film explores one of the most complex and darkest chapters in American history

Killers of the Flower Moon review: Scorsese and DiCaprio deliver yet another cinematic masterpiece

Last Updated: 04.00 PM, Oct 27, 2023


Story: The plot is set in the 1920s in the Native American region called the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, USA. When oil was discovered in the Osage land, it brought the Osages significant wealth over the years. However, it also put a target on their backs as several members of the Osage Nation began to die under mysterious circumstances.


Review: Filmmaker Martin Scorsese has voiced concerns about the decline in artistic value in modern cinema, especially in templatised superhero films. He called them “theme park” movies, and while it wasn’t meant to disparage any particular franchise, it certainly riled up the partisan superhero fandoms. However, the year 2023 has shown promise that cinema, as envisioned by Scorsese, is making it way back to public consciousness, with films such as Oppenheimer and Past Lives. And Scorsese himself has played a vital part in this resurgence with the release of the biographical drama Killers of the Flower Moon.


Scorsese has crafted a film that is unlike any of his previous releases but manages to incorporate some of the auteur’s signature artistic flair. The film opens with a slow and methodical pace in order to ease the story into its setting and characters. The narrative also offers a bit of history and insight into the Osage Nation, and the people living in the region of Fairfax. It also delves into how the social fabric of this society has been altered since the discovery of the ‘black gold’ oil in the region. Through a brief exposition and visuals, the film highlights how the wealth may have shifted to the Native Americans, but true power is held by the White population.


Leonardo DiCaprio essays the role of the film’s central character. The writers initially position DiCaprio’s character, Ernest Burkhart, as a man searching for opportunities, wealth, and love. He finds all of them in Mollie, an Osage woman. The narrative's relatively measured pacing in the first act about love and embracing diversity quickly dissipates when it becomes increasingly evident that Ernest’s uncle Bill Hale, who goes by King, has sinister and ulterior motives. Robert De Niro’s King has carefully perfected his false image as a ‘true friend’ of the Osage and as an upstanding and righteous member of society working selflessly for its betterment.


As the narrative progresses it becomes apparent who the true villains of the story are. While it is hinted from the very first scene, the unravelling of the truth creates a sense of astonishment. The gravity and nature of these crimes add a certain element of darkness that one would often associate with serial killers. The plight of the Osage is highlighted through Lily Gladstone’s character Mollie, who surprisingly delivers a standout performance in a film that already boasts multiple Academy Award winners such as DiCaprio, De Niro, and Brendan Fraser.


The film is not designed to be an intriguing drama that unmasks the killers of the ghastly murders. It is meant to focus on how despite wealth and prosperity, the people of the Osage Nation never found true justice. In fact, all of their efforts to even find safety within their own homes end up being futile – simply because a corrupt system enabled greedy individuals to carry out their misdeeds without scrutiny or accountability. The narrative also explores themes of imperialism and racism. Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent yet again, as a deeply flawed man who is also a victim from a certain perspective as he struggles to break free from his uncle’s unrelenting grasp.


Verdict: Killers of the Flower is an excellent addition to Martin Scorsese’s remarkable filmography. The filmmaker’s frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro essay compelling performances while Lily Gladstone delivers the standout performance in the film. The film is a masterful exploration of one of the most complex and darkest chapters in American history.


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