Killers of the Flower Moon is an epic western crime saga, where real love crosses paths with unspeakable betrayal. Based on a true story and told through the improbable romance of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), Killers of the Flower Moon tracks the suspicious murders of members of the Osage Nation, who became some of the richest people in the world overnight after oil was discovered underneath their land. Killers of the Flower Moon also stars Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons, and is directed by Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese from a screenplay by Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese, based on David Grann’s best-selling book.
Killers of the Flower Moon gave us a real treat in seeing both Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio on screen together. Their pairing was the driving force of the drama. De Niro and DiCaprio delivered strong, reliable performances. They might not have been their career-best roles, but their chemistry was undeniable. They were pretty much on cruise control for the whole movie. However, it was Lily Gladstone who truly stood out in the film. Her character carried more depth and internal conflict, and Gladstone’s performance was both convincing and emotionally resounding. She was undoubtedly a contender for award nominations. It was just a shame we couldn’t have gotten more of her character.
From a technical perspective, Killers of the Flower Moon is without any real flaws. The score was perfectly selected to match the ambiance and mood of every scene. The cinematography was excellent. I loved how Scorsese found creative ways to make audiences feel immersed in some scenes and blow us away with explosive moments. (Yes, pun intended.)
Oftentimes, people scoff at a movie’s run time if it’s over a certain amount. Let me be very clear. There is nothing wrong with a movie having a long run time. What matters is what the filmmaker does within that run time. In Killers of the Flower Moon, the 3.5 hour run time is a challenge. If you’re a fan of Scorese’s style of films and have far more patience with slow burns, then disregard this critique. For me, the problem was more so in the pacing, editing, and writing which left more to be desired. While the film was undeniably ambitious, it occasionally fell into the trap of repetitiveness. De Niro and DiCaprio’s characters revisited plot points that diminished their impact. There didn’t seem to be a steady build-up of momentum within their motivations or conflicts until close to the end of the film. The exposition in the film felt superfluous at times, and without any interesting action sequence, the plot reveals, or exciting character developments, there were too many dull points in the film.
Another issue to deal with is the approach to the characters and their perspectives (or lack thereof). While De Niro and DiCaprio’s characters and their motives were clearly established, the film didn’t delve deep enough into their internal struggles. In my opinion, that left me somewhat disconnected from them, and at the same time, longing for more of the Osage characters. Speaking of which, the most significant missed opportunity lay in the film’s treatment of the Osage tribe. While the film depicted their devastating story, it failed to provide a comprehensive perspective from their point of view. They came across as background characters in a story that was fundamentally about their tragedy. It was like watching a film about American slavery from the slave owner’s perspective. Lily Gladstone’s character, despite being prominently featured in the promotional marketing, didn’t receive the depth of exploration she deserved.
Killers of the Flower Moon is a well-structured film, with an important message, that Scorsese fans will adore. However, to say this didn’t feel like a chore to get through would be an understatement. There’s no questioning the fact that Scorsese put forth great intentions behind this film, and he accomplished the feat of bringing awareness to the Osage Tribe murders. It certainly came across as a film that lacked perspective outside of Scorsese’s own worldview. As a film, I can’t say that it’s one of Scorsese’s best by any measure. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, but I do think his style is becoming far more niche and some may even say outdated. This film, while providing an important message, probably would have been better suited as a limited series on a streaming platform. Grab some caffeine, go to the bathroom, and enjoy the film if you decide to see it in theaters.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer(s): Eric Roth, Martin Scorsese
Stars:Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion, Jason Isbell, William Belleau, Louis Cancelmi, Scott Shepherd, Everett Waller, Talee Redcorn, Yancey Red Corn, Tatanka Means
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Killers of the Flower Moon Review: A Real Cinematic Chore
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/108/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 5/105/10
- Setting/Theme - 7/107/10
- Watchability - 6/106/10
- Rewatchability - 2/102/10