"Killers of the Flower Moon" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Martin Scorsese's 26th film, "Killers of the Flower Moon", impeccably show the horrors and tragedy that the members of the Osage community went through in the 1920s. With an impressive cast and an incredibly impressive script written by Scorsese and veteran screenwriter Eric Roth, Scorsese is able to perfectly tell this deeply personal story for him, educating the modern audience on a major historical event that could have been lost to the past if it wasn't brought to the screen. The novel by David Grann may have presented the facts, but Scorsese and his cast are able to humanize the events, hitting the viewers right where it hurts to make these events so much scarier and heartbreaking.
The film revolves around Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s, where oil has been found on their land. This attracts William Hale (Robert De Niro), who has lived in Osage Country for years and has befriended many of the members of the tribe. He is able to attract his nephew Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio) to the land, hoping to take him under his wing and marry him off to Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), hoping he can serve as a beneficiary to Mollie's head-rights in case anything happens to her or the members of her family.
Things start to seem off when Osage members start dropping like flies, dying from unnatural causes or suicides at a very alarming rate. Mollie doesn't think that these deaths are caused by random coincidences, and neither does the rest of the Osage tribe. They seek out the help of private detectives and investigators until detective Tom White (Jesse Plemmons) comes to Osage to check out what is happening. What they don't expect is for a traitor to be amongst them, sabotaging all of them simply for the love and greed of money.
Throughout the years, Scorsese has proven time and time again that he can craft a film like this, telling a complex and compelling story that can really draw the viewer in; this film is no different. Literally from the start until the end credits started to roll, Scorsese had me in a trance, locked in on what was happening and wouldn't let me go until he was done telling this very important story. At the same time, having read the novel before venturing out to see this film, Scorsese and Roth pay close attention to detail in their marvelous script, making sure they not only respect the past and the details of these crimes, but present them in a way that also makes it entertaining for audiences.
I absolutely adore the shift in tone when the film hits a certain point. The first thirty or forty minutes of this film seem like a typical love story, where two unlikely people meet and fall head over heels for one another. But, once the murders start taking place and the film starts to pick up steam, this feels like a whole different movie. It is crafted in such a way that, at times, it can make the audience physically sick to their stomachs due to the harsh reality of what these innocent Osage members had to go through. Just when the viewer thinks it could possibly get better or these bad people will get what they deserve, Scorsese just takes it one step further, not shying away from the gruesomeness of these crimes.
There are two major scenes that support my statement. The first happens fairly early in the movie, where a mom lies her child down in their stroller before turning and being shot at point blank range. Any other director would have hyped up the gunshot in this scene, making it seem bigger than life itself. Scorsese, on the other hand, demonstrates the gunshot like it is a natural part of life, that it simply is just another day at work for these men committing these crimes. I honestly think this is one of the best decisions Scorsese made for this film.
It is also complimented by the second moment in this film, where a house is blown up via dynamite. The death are graphic and shocking, and it makes the viewer feel sick when they see what has happened. Scorsese also frames it in a way to show how natural and real this story feels. That is one aspect of his films that you can find throughout his filmography, from "Goodfellas" to "The Irishman" to this new film. He makes it where the viewer can see themselves in all of these situations, which makes it hit much closer to home. From the cinematography to the framing of the scenes to the set design, it all simply works.
The performances here are without a doubt fantastic. Each and every actor here understands the role they are playing, and try their hardest to not only be as accurate to their real-life counterpart, but play the roles they are given as respectful as possible. De Niro totally plays a character that is much different to his usual rough and tough attitude, and Scorsese has somehow made DiCaprio incredibly unattractive and creepy in this film. Together, they are fantastic, and are able to successfully portray these antagonists in a way that simply works for the storyline of this movie.
However, it is Gladstone who steals the show in the scenes she is in, presenting an immaculate performance as Mollie. She is amazing at playing this very calm and cool character, until we get to the murders in the movie. From there on, and as her health starts to get progressively worse, her performance completely changes, and it is absolutely stellar to watch. There is one particular scene in an attic where I got chills all over my body and tears to my eyes just from her performance in that one scene.
This is no surprise that Scorsese delivers another masterpiece, and I would say it is easily a contender for the best film of the year. He takes such care to present this terrifying and tragic tale on the big screen, crafting a beautifully moving film that showcases such fantastic performances from very talented actors. This film is not only going to be a treat for longtime Scorsese fans, but also educates a collective audience on a historical event that should have never been forgotten.