Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+.
Movies, Reviews

Killers of the Flower Moon Review: Scorsese Gives Voice to the Voiceless

One of the most powerful film directors of our time, Martin Scorsese, has outdone even himself with his latest, Killers of the Flower Moon.

This film might have a 3-hour and 26-minute run time, but the story it tells never slows down and creates an impact that viewers will be thinking about long after the credits roll. It’s destined to become one of the greatest films of all time due to the focus Scorsese insists on giving to the Osage people — who, rightfully, should be the ones to tell this story.

Sure, the film’s focus seems to start off on Earnest Burkhart and his Uncle William Hale, but it quickly becomes apparent that this is actually Mollie Burkhart’s story. There are frequent cuts to her own narration as more and more Osage individuals end up dead.

This Isn’t A White Man’s Tale
Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+.
Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+. (photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon)

While it’s true Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are a large focal point of the film, it is not done so in a manner that gives us sympathy for them. From the start, it is clear that De Niro’s Hale has ulterior motives for convincing DiCaprio’s Burkhart to court and eventually marry Mollie.

Despite the fact that Burkhart shows time and time again that he truly loves and cares for Mollie he also still allows Hale to manipulate him and get him to be an accomplice in the murder of Mollie’s family and friends. All for the sake of money.

In fact, during one of the first true dates Mollie and Earnest go on, Earnest tells Mollie point blank that he loves money and would love to be able to be a lazy husband. However, she is quickly reassured by his compassionate actions and attentive care regarding her diabetes and other health problems.

This minor moment shows loud and clear that Burkhart is one of many wolves in sheep’s clothing. While Hale is the worst of the worst, none of the other white men involved in this story are innocent, either.

Killers of the Flower Moon takes the time to lay out all the ways that the white people of Fairfax lured the Osage tribe into feelings of false security. And how Hale used his charming smile and his public shows of support to stab them in the back without them knowing.

Not even Earnest going up against his uncle in court could save his character or make up for the reprehensible things he helped orchestrate. Any modicum of sympathy we might have had for him during his testimony goes out the window the minute Mollie asks him to be honest about the insulin, and he continues to lie — and she knows it.

Mollie’s Strength Shines Through
JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers, Jillian Dion in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+.
JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers, Jillian Dion in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+. (photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon)

Mollie Burkhart is a woman who loses everything at the hands of someone she thought she could trust. Her own health is put into this man’s hands once she really starts to suspect Hale, and that too is betrayed.

She gains a level of strength no person should ever have to find within themselves. Never once does she stop pursuing the truth about her family’s slow demise.

Scorsese uses Mollie as a way to show us why our previously held beliefs regarding indigenous tribes need to be refocused and rewritten. Like many during Mollie’s lifetime, white people are conditioned to believe that indigenous tribes, such as the Osage, are others who can’t ever measure up.

However, Killers of the Flower Moon does a wonderful job of looking at a very real, historic situation and tells it from the perspective of the victims who are often forgotten. The entire Osage tribe was manipulated and abused by white men who only saw them as a means to get oil money.

Mollie’s family is a shining example of that, not only in the story she tells but also in the words that are never spoken, but definitely heard. For this film, the body language and unspoken words between the Osage and the white people are just as important as the dialogue.

In the end, none of this story would even be told if it weren’t for Mollie’s unwavering persistence to make sure her family’s pain wasn’t swept under the rug like so many others had been. Despite being extremely ill, at the hands of her husband, Mollie is the one to make the trip to tell the president about the treatment of her people.

It is Mollie’s voice that viewers hear narrating throughout. Mollie’s voice never stops screaming for justice.

The Performances Are Beyond Words
Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+.
Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+. (photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon)

While the story itself is very timely, relevant, and necessary to be told, the performances are what really make us stop and truly pay attention. Without them, this could easily become just another story that was okay, but not particularly earthshattering.

However, Lily Gladstone’s haunting take on the role has our hearts aching for Mollie every step of the way. From a slightly concerned member of the Osage tribe to an angry, motivated last remaining member of her family, Gladstone carries the role beautifully.

Her passion to ensure Mollie’s indigenous heritage, traditions, and beliefs shine through is evident in every scene. There is an honesty to her performance that comes from understanding her character on a deeper, more personal level.

Despite being truly vile characters, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro give performances that allow their indigenous costars to shine even brighter than themselves. Which, I imagine, is Scorsese intent.

These two high-caliber actors know just how to charm us while also making us feel like we need a long, hot shower to rid ourselves of their disgusting presence. It’s these performances that really bring Gladstone even further into the spotlight — bolstering her voice in ways no one else can.

Bringing Truth to Film
Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese behind the scenes of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+.
Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese behind the scenes of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” coming soon to Apple TV+. (photo credit: Melinda Sue Gordon)

At the start of the film, Martin Scorsese states this is one of the most important films he’s ever created, and it shows.

His attention to detail goes as far as filming in Osage County, Oklahoma, and working directly with the Osage tribe to ensure the accuracy of location, voices, and facts shines through on the big screen. That authenticity ensures that viewers will actually believe everything this film shows and hopefully get something out of it.

Ultimately, this film is something everyone should experience and learn from.

 

Killers of the Flower Moon is currently in theatres.

 

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Mads is a part-time entertainment journalist and full-time marketing content creator. They love reading the latest in Queer novels -- especially romance ones and watching the latest dramas, sci-fi/fantasy, Star Wars, and romcom films/TV shows. You can join the conversation by following them on Twitter: @dorothynyc89.

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