Killers Of The Flower Moon is true crime in full bloom
Killers Of The Flower Moon (PG13)
206 minutes, now showing
“Most Osage don’t live past 50.”
So says Killers Of The Flower Moon, one of 2023’s most anticipated films. Is this grim statistic down to genetics or is there something far more sinister at play? In acclaimed director Martin Scorsese’s latest endeavour, it is very much the latter.
Based on the eponymous nonfiction book, the movie delves into a series of real-life murders that rocked the Osage Native American community in 1920s Oklahoma. With an outstanding cast and a dedication to historical accuracy, viewers are taken on an illuminating journey through a dark period in American history.
The Western crime drama is Scorsese’s sixth feature film collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio and his tenth with Robert De Niro. But for a movie helmed by this power trio, it ends up feeling somewhat lacklustre.
There’s no doubt that the cast is exceptionally talented. DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, a bumbling war veteran who worms his way into the Osage community – and the heart of his unsuspecting wife, Mollie Burkhart. Lily Gladstone shines in her role as the headstrong Mollie, a commanding presence despite the looming shadow of diabetes and family tragedy. De Niro is quietly fearsome as Ernest’s uncle and influential cattleman William Hale, self-proclaimed friend of the Osages. Even Brendan Fraser leaves an indelible impression despite limited screen time.
These male characters dominate the movie in the same vein. So much is focused on the white men, their motivations, cold-blooded scheming and despicable crimes, while those they have wronged are nothing more than victims. Never mind that these victims are actual historical figures whose rich lives were mercilessly cut short. We are given little about them even after the film's 206-minute runtime.
Sure, Killers Of The Flower Moon is a stark and gritty portrait of what the Osage were callously put through. It unfurls a harrowing chapter in American history, offering a potent commentary on greed, family, love, and white supremacy. It will probably sweep multiple accolades during award season. It just didn’t make me feel.
One can’t help but wonder if these are deliberate artistic choices by Scorsese all along. After all, the detachment experienced as a viewer mirrors the apathy displayed by the likes of Hale and Burkhart when committing their heinous crimes. Perhaps the audience is intentionally kept at arm’s length to reflect the indifference that these perpetrators felt during their murder spree.
With masterful direction and commendable performances, Killers Of The Flower Moon manages to captivate and educate. However, its emotional reserve leaves a void in the heart, ultimately leading to a rather bland cinematic experience. While the movie provides a disturbing window into history and urges us to remember past injustices, it ironically fails to do justice to the Osage.
- Killers Of The Flower Moon opens in cinemas today.