Another Scorsese gem with a great cast, R-rated violence, and beautiful scenery.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is about how the Osage County discovered oil on their tribal land in Oklahoma, and became some of the richest people in America. They stick to their traditions, while adjusting to the American life. But there are white interlopers, who would steal money and jewelry from them, and even resort to murder. Based on David Grann’s book and on the history of Osage Indian murders, Martin Scorsese isn’t afraid to tell this story with the right kind of dangers, emotions, and complexity.
From the opening shots of the oil discovery to weddings and ceremonial traditions to the drama of love and loss to the murders regarding guns and explosions, you’re sitting in your seat, questioning if there is humanity in any time period, and how the American dream is achieved.
Scorsese reunites with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, and he uses them quite well in the 1920s setting. DiCaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, a war vet, whose injuries qualify him for a driving job. And De Niro plays his uncle William Hale (“The King of Osage Hill” he would refer himself as), a wealthy cattleman, who serves as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He seems like the tribe’s best friend, because of his seemingly friendly characteristics, but he’s secretly trying to rob them.
But the real revelation of “Killers of the Flower Moon” is Lily Gladstone (“Certain Women,” “First Cow”), who plays Mollie, a Native American resident, whom Ernest falls for and marries. There are hardships for her, as she sticks to her traditions, which become difficult as she’s stricken with diabetes and refuses to see doctors. Ernest is reluctant about killing her as part of his uncle’s dirty work, but he poisons her with insulin, while raising their children.
The supporting cast also includes Tantoo Cardinal (“Dances with Wolves,” “Wind River”) as Mollie’s mother Lizzie Q, who sees an owl as a sign that she’s going to pass on soon; Jesse Plemons as Tom White, a former Texas Ranger turned BOI agent sent by J. Edgar Hoover to investigate the murders; John Lithgow as the prosecutor in the courtroom scene; and Brendan Fraser as Hale’s attorney, who warns Ernest not to do anything he’ll regret on trial.
When you see DiCaprio, De Niro, and Gladstone igniting the screen, you’re amazed. When you see the breathtaking cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, you’re dazzled. When you hear the score composed by the late, great Robbie Robertson, you know it sets the mood. And when you’re reminded of movies like “Goodfellas” or “There Will Be Blood” or “Dances with Wolves,” you know you just love going to the movies.
Please do not ask me when this movie will stream on AppleTV+, because they have not set up a specific date at this moment. This week, Apple Original Films and Paramount Pictures will release it in theaters everywhere. They have been suggesting that Netflix could make extra money if they release their movies in more theaters before their streaming dates. But that’s not for me to say.
Anyway, whether you wait for it to come on your TV or take my beverage tip on sitting through 3 and a half hours in theaters (drink little sips at a time), “Killers of the Flower Moon” is another piece of evidence that Scorsese’s craftsmanship and filmmaking is ageless. From “Mean Streets” to “Raging Bull” to “Goodfellas” to “The Departed” to “The Wolf of Wall Street” to “The Irishman,” there’s no disputing his gifts. As Al Pacino told me when I told him “The Irishman” made my best of the decade list, he said: “Scorsese, remember that name.” And as I’m telling you: “Killers of the Flower Moon,” remember that title.
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.