Review by Shauna McCrudden- GRADE A
Brand-new Martin Scorsese film, Killers of the Flower Moon, was always going to be controversial. But thankfully, Scorsese has famously never shied away from controversy. And honestly, I didn’t expect to feel this moved.
Based on a nonfiction book about a real crime, the Osage murders, which took place in the early 20th century in Osage County in Oklahoma, this film is not afraid of showing the brutality of these true crimes.
The story begins with the Osage tribe becoming incredibly rich due to oil deposits discovered under their land. After this, white businessman and ‘true friend’ of the Osage Nation, William King Hale (Robert De Niro) hatches a plot to brutally murder numerous members of the tribe so he could gain their money. He recruits his nephew, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) to orchestrate this plot by having him marry Osage tribe member Molly (Lily Gladstone) who will inherit huge sums.
One-by-one the Osage people are gunned down, poisoned, or mysteriously made ill. Molly's entire family starts dying around her, until she too starts to fall sick. And the all-white law enforcement and politicians don’t seem to care at all about these obviously suspicious deaths.
This film is horrifying, as you might expect. But also, beautifully poignant. And Scorsese’s trademark dark humour is more on point than ever – you’ll find yourself chuckling away at the most twisted lines.
Watching it, you just know this will be a big winner during awards season. This is Scorsese’s greatest film in years, and while De Niro turned in a great performance in The Irishman a few years ago, this film feels like another Raging Bull or Taxi Driver – he is a master here in the role of the villainous King Hale. Leonardo DiCaprio is also as solid as he’s ever been, continuing to prove he’s one of the greatest actors of his generation, while looking his absolute worst with yellow teeth and greasy hair. But it’s Lily Gladstone’s performance as Molly which really sets this film apart. She plays her with such raw humanity and vulnerability – when she screams in her grief, you feel what she feels. She’s a real find and as the Native American lead in this film, she bears the weight of responsibility of bringing the victims to life.
That brings us to the controversy – the movie is not told through the eyes of the Osage people. It shows them as people to feel empathy for and you fall for the characters, but the movie follows white man Ernest and the choices he makes. It shows that he truly believes his love for Molly, while simultaneously plotting to murder her and her entire family. But this is actually a remarkable choice from Scorsese. The film is telling a story of evil. Evil is depicted in many ways, from the calculated plotting of Hale to possibly the most disturbing, the pathetic evil of Ernest. Ernest continues to proclaim he loves Molly and his children with her, and yet he easily goes along with his uncle’s manipulations. When Hale says jump, Ernest asks how high. But Ernest doesn’t think he’s that bad and his greasiness comes across quite clearly even in Di Caprio’s appearance. You even find yourself sympathising with him, until you just can’t anymore. It’s rather chilling.
But remember, this film is 3 hours and 26 minutes long. I didn’t feel the time passing as the story is just so engrossing, but you might find it a little too long. But if you have ever watched three episodes of your favourite show in one sitting, you can make it through this!