After a summer where all the talk was centered around “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” Martin Scorsese’s “Killer of the Flower Moon” steps into the spotlight and finally gives us something new to talk about.
The three-hour and 26-minute film — although it doesn’t feel that long — tells the haunting story of the Osage Native American tribe and the injustices done to their group over the early to mid 1900s.
The Osage, who are located in Northern Oklahoma, struck territorial gold. In the 1920s oil was found on their land, and so in the film viewers witness the riches that come pouring in for the native Osage people.
They get monthly stipends in return for the government’s use of the land to acquire the oil. But when one person has the money, naturally someone else is going to want it.
Enter Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio: the uncle and nephew duo with plans of conning the Osage out of their rightfully earned money. Keep in mind, these people have been getting pushed west for decades; finally settling in Oklahoma to find themselves on top of liquid gold. For once, it appeared as if something was going to go right for the Osage.
De Niro and DiCaprio put on a masterclass in this film. Their female co-star, Lily Gladstone, is arguably even better in her role as Mollie Burkhart — wife of Ernest Burkhart played by DiCaprio.
Her stone cold expression rarely wavers, and her dark pupils alone tell half the story. The expression in Gladstone’s character isn’t completely hidden however, and we see the backbone of the Osage community waver time and time again with each and every one of her sisters being killed off by white people.
What’s truly sensational about this film is the amount of information Scorsese gives us while still leaving crucial details out. This keeps the audience guessing, and it’s difficult to place the blame on one singular character.
De Niro’s character, William “King” Hale, is clearly the ring leader. But with that being said, the Osage tribe adores the man so much so that you spend three hours of the film siding with him. The nickname “King” is the hint everyone misses at the beginning of the story, and it’s apparent later that he was a powerful, white man in a territory that he had no business being in.
De Niro is charming in this film though. His accent is spot on, and you forget the veteran actor actually hails from New York and not the Midwest. DiCaprio is his trusted tag team partner, and the duo conquered this film.
Details are everything in this movie, and DiCaprio’s rotting teeth are just a small aspect of how well he played the role of an uneducated soldier being used as a puppet by his wealthy uncle.
DiCaprio’s character is as faithful as a dog, wagging his tail for De Niro despite the dirty work he’s being asked to do. He’s even willing to put his own wife in danger in order to take the Osage community’s money one tribe member at a time.
Scorsese’s characters and the way in which he delivers this riveting story, make for a heart wrenching and frustrating watch. King Hale and Ernest viciously find ways of killing off member after member to inherit their oil money, and you as the viewer are supposed to just sit back and enjoy the show.
However, this is nearly impossible as Mollie’s family is killed off one sister at a time. The growing bags under her eyes are evidence enough that she knows something fishy is going on, but is too powerless to fix the issue. And in the span of a few years, the same white people who were at the Osage’s will are now the ones sitting in Osage homes in luxury clothes.
Scorsese brings the story full circle, but there is no sweet justice in the end. Mollie almost dies of diabetes after Ernest tries killing her with a mix of insulin and some sort of tranquilizer, King Hale’s puppets do the time for crimes they were blackmailed into committing, and most of the powerful white people involved leave unscathed, thanks to the help of biased juries.
From Scorsese to the trio of De Niro, DiCaprio, and Gladstone, this tandem of Hollywood talent doesn’t tell you what to decide. There’s so many possibilities of how you could feel leaving the theater.
Some may hate Ernest, while others may have seen a soldier who was dumb as rocks and loved his wife just as much as he loved his uncle and the money tied to his family. De Niro is lovable until the film wakes you up and you realize he isn’t the savior he portrays himself to be. Finally, it’s hard to fathom the hell that Mollie is put through in this story, and the unfortunate cards she is drawn leave a lump in your throat.
Look past the runtime of this movie and the brutal, true story that is told. It is a must see film, and a story that needs to be heard. Scorsese is bringing these untold stories to light, and the star-studded cast does their part in embodying the harsh reality of Native American life in the unforgiving 1900s.