Martin Scorsese has given the world some of the best crime/gangster thrillers of the last 50 years, ranging from Taxi Driver to The Departed (my particular favorite). He’s even branched out his directing capabilities to other projects such as the children’s film Hugo and the religious drama Silence. But his Oscar-nominated The Irishman was not my favorite for its meandering pace. This gave me worry for Killers of the Flower Moon, coming in at roughly 3 hrs and 30 min, but then I watched and luckily my worries were exaggerated.
Mollie Burkhart (played by Lily Gladstone) is one of the few full-blooded indigenous of the Osage Nation, with her marriage to her husband Ernest (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), her family dies one by one to either brutal murder or natural causes. She must find a way to put a stop to the murders of her people as the greed of outside forces begins to get the better of them, led by the King of the Osage Hills and her uncle-in-law, William Hill (played by Robert De Niro).
When it comes to Martin Scorsese-led projects, you can expect a longer runtime mixed with mafia style. Killers of the Flower Moon is no different, with an expansive runtime of just under 3 ½ hours in length. He also weaves his notable themes of the American Dream as well as greed as we see powerful white men kill and steal their way to the grave. What makes this type of film even more interesting was that I have never heard of this story until it was released. It truly feels like both a western mafia love child as the American Dream becomes too greedy for every single person involved in the Osage murders.
Possibly one of the few downsides to the film is the runtime, which if you went to the theater for the entire film I applaud you. But I do recommend the film be watched in increments over a few days. Its slower pace doesn’t help, but that isn’t a complaint I suppose, considering that the slow burn works in this film as we see both sides of the murder mystery unfold. It seems to act as a cat-and-mouse game only wondering when the victims will figure out who the killers are by the end. The slow pace also helped me care for the characters, especially Lily Gladstone’s Mollie.
Speaking of Lily Gladstone, she undoubtedly reigns supreme with her compassionate performance, bringing her understanding and earnestness to life. What makes her performance and character remarkable is the lack of naivety in her role, she would have easily been portrayed as a lovestruck naive woman but manages to overcome that hurdle with persistence in the amount of emotional turmoil Mollie endures. Leonardo DiCaprio also gives another great performance as Ernest. Ernest isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but through it all, he still has a lot of love for Mollie, even when he is acting against her best interests. DiCaprio makes him more of a pitiable character rather than evil like Robert De Niro’s Hill, yet he still manages to make him a not-so-nice person to hang around. Then De Niro’s William Hill is a literal wolf in sheep’s clothing as he earns the trust of the Osage only to try and steal as much as he can from them to get more. Being the living embodiment of greed, he captures the kindness of an old man with just the right amount of menace lying under the surface.
Killers of the Flower Moon is a must-watch for fans of true crime and Martin Scorsese. The eye-bleeding runtime may turn some away, but I recommend watching it over a few days to truly enjoy it as much as possible. With strong performances from Gladstone, DiCaprio, and De Niro, it isn’t a surprise they got award nominations (I hope Gladstone wins)! With the themes of greed and the American Dream-turned-nightmare, it will keep you guessing as to what will happen next, especially with the cat-and-mouse like atmosphere the film provides. Killers of the Flower Moon has received 10 Academy Award Nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and Actress; I wouldn’t be surprised when it walks away with a few of them coming Oscar Sunday!