Martin Scorsese is easily one of the most influential filmmakers of our time and is one of the only directors these days who can garner excitement for a film when his name is attached. (The other arguably being Quentin Tarantino.) So, of course, as soon as Scorsese’s latest effort was announced, there was no question that the anticipation was high. Add two of his favorite collaborators, Academy Award winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, who have starred in a grand total of thirteen of Scorsese’s pictures but have never shared the screen together, and you now have cinephiles in a fever pitch.
Killers Of The Flower Moon premiered on October 20th, 2023, and follows the Osage tribe of Oklahoma, a Native American tribe that became rich after striking oil. This brings White migrants seeking to cash in on the wealthy community in some very despicable ways. None more despicable than political boss and crime lord William Hale (De Niro) and his World War I veteran nephew, Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), who plot to murder members of one of the most affluent families in the area for the insurance money. A plan that hits a bit of a bump when Burkhart marries Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), one of their targets, and starts to develop genuine feelings for her. From there, the film takes the dramatic, wild, and calculated twists and turns you come to expect from a Scorsese feature. Killers is one of Scorsese’s finest films for different reasons than the usual Scorsese cinematic grit.
Of course, the film’s acting is stellar, with not only DiCaprio and De Niro’s performances being just as amazing as you would expect but also Gladstone, who, despite her limited filmography, does more than hold her own. As well as some small but powerful moments from reliable silver screen veterans like Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow, and, to a lesser extent, recent Academy Award winner Brendan Fraser. The story that Scorsese was adamant about getting to the big screen is hard to watch at times, seeing how Caucasians assimilating into the community and their way of life systematically destroys the tribes through addiction and health issues, but it is a story that needs to be told. The added historical context of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the looming fear of a similar event happening in the community also deserves mention.
The film is a slow burn that moves at a methodical pace, and while this may seem to be to a detriment, it provides the gravitas a story like this deserves. While sometimes it’s a bit complicated to distinguish and remember character relations, most, if not every, character is integral to this story. It’s tough to point out any real flaws with this film. Though the bloated runtime of two hundred and six minutes seems daunting, it’s still utilized well, even if not perfectly. However, it’s a tough story to tell... Scorsese, as always, tells it masterfully. Be sure not to miss this one, as it’s easily one of the best movies this year.
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