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Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

Scorsese’s retelling of the Osage murders is extensive, yet necessary.
Image by Ava Weinreis
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is based off of a book by the same story.

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” directed by the renowned Martin Scorsese, delves into a somber period of American history full of greed, corruption and bloodshed.

The film is an adaptation of David Grann’s book of the same name. The story revolves around the Osage Nation, an indigenous group relocated to Osage County, Oklahoma, in the late 1800s. Their land happened to be above enormous oil deposits, which led to an extreme wealth in the community. It also made them a target of a dark conspiracy to steal their fortunes.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, a soldier who has just returned home from World War I. He is housed by his uncle, William King Hale (played by Robert De Niro), a wealthy man who has befriended the Osage people.

Burkhart is an extremely unlikeable character. He will do whatever it takes to get more money — even at the expense of his own wife and mother of his children. However, DiCaprio’s quest for greed does not have the bold determination seen in his portrayal of Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Instead it is more comparable to his role as Rick Dalton in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” in that they both have a weak, compliant nature.

It’s hard to imagine the head of organized crime in a Scorsese movie being played by anyone other than De Niro (see “Goodfellas,” “Casino”), and this performance proves why. Through his charisma and steadiness, he is able to mislead the Osage people into befriending him, despite his heinous maneuvers out of their sight.

The standout performance, however, does not come from the big-name actors. Instead it comes from Lily Gladstone who plays Mollie Burkhart, Ernest’s wife. There is a sadness and fear in her acting as if she witnessed the Osage murders first-hand. This is Gladstone’s breakout performance and surely one to solidify her as a renowned actress.

Jesse Plemons was a great choice as a force of good in the movie. He plays Tom White, a former Texas Ranger who is sent by the Bureau of Investigation (what will eventually become the FBI) to investigate the murders. He is calm and level-headed as he pieces together the evidence of the murders despite push-back.

One surprisingly excellent performance was Brendan Fraser as Hale’s lawyer. It is a small role, but Fraser used what he had. This role along with his commitment to his role in “The Whale” could be the start of the actor’s comeback.

Despite the movie being almost three and a half hours long, there is no overkill. Every scene progresses the story in an important way as the horrors get more ugly and vile.

Scorsese’s love of film is seen in every shot, which makes this picture an immersive experience that grips audiences and offers a moving reflection on the injustices indigenous tribes have endured throughout history.

There is a certain darkness throughout the film that lingers even after the credits are rolling, but it is a story that needed to be told. It will increase awareness of these incidents as well as the larger problems with racism, inequality and greed that characterized the time.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” explores the horrific background of the Osage Indian killings and has all the makings of a memorable cinematic experience: a strong cast, a brilliant director and a story based on actual historical events. It’s a must-see for movie lovers and history buffs alike.

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