Killers of the Flower Moon Review

5 stars

5 stars out of 5

Scorsese's new film opens with an Osage Chief gathered with his tribe as he gives a eulogy for the "pipe
person" (peace pipe) that he holds. They are mourning the death of their culture and way of life.
Grieving about how the white man will now take their children and be the ones teaching them. Children
can be seen looking in from between the holes of the hut, without any say about their own future. Then
we are treated to a sound of earth breaking and a shot of earth being blown open by the pressure of oil
from underneath the soil. Some Osage men begin to jump and celebrate in slow motion at the turn of
their fate. This sequence has the same sort of camera energy and lighting reminiscent of another "greed"
themed film of Scorsese's, "The Wolf of Wall Street." But where that film is excessively debauched in its
character's greed and reckless "good time," with nonstop camera energy and a swinging music score that
gives an energy as coke-induced as Leonardo Dicaprio's Jordan Belfort, this sequence has an ominous
soundtrack giving a sense of doom and dread. The slow-motion shot of the celebration is filmed in
profile where a smile is never fully seen—only the shapes the mouth makes when yelling. The oil slowly
hits these men and erupts on their bodies into big liquid splatters, starting a visual motif throughout this
film of how often this tribe is hit and the splatter that follows-the oil symbolic of the bullets to come as
it foreshadows the murders that will hit the Osage tribe.

This film remarkably marks the first feature length film in which Scorsese directs both Robert De Niro
and Leonardo Dicaprio--the two male actors that have been Scorsese's most frequent leading men.
Dicaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, an infantry cook in World War One who has come to Oklahoma to rejoin
his older brother Byron. Byron works for their Uncle William Hale (De Niro) but Hale has everybody call
him "King." Hale is a cattle man but he seems to run everything else, known as the King of the Osage
Hills. King gives Ernest a job interview. Asking him if he likes women? What color does he like? Red?
Ernest loves all women, no matter color or size. He also announces here his love of money, "I love money
almost as much I love women." King then gives Ernest a book on the history and culture of the Osage
people. Homework.

Lily Gladstone enters our film at this point as Mollie. The actress gives a true subtle naturalist tour de
force and one can expect to see her name for best actress come awards season. Mollie has three other
sisters; Reta, Anna, and Minnie and a mother still living. When Mollie meets Ernest, she calls him "Show-
me-kah-see" meaning Coyote. The word has an interesting double meaning of "fox." A better name for
him than Ernest, especially since he has no idea of the importance of it to quote Oscar Wilde. Mollie
recognizes Ernest immediately for what he is. He replies the word must mean "handsome devil", ", which is
beautiful screenwriting that shows Ernest knows exactly what he is as well. Not long after is a scene
where Ernest reads aloud the book on the Osage that King gave him. The camera is focused on the
pictures of the book until we come to a picture of wolves hiding in the underbrush about to strike the
Osage people. Ernest says aloud "Can you see the wolves?"

Can we? Mollie sees it right away and still marries Ernest. Her sisters tell her but that doesn't stop her.
Her sisters all marry white men as well. None work, only leech off of the women's fortune. Many
murders then start to happen. Men killing women and then taking their head rights. Mollie's mother
laments that all her daughters marry white men. Just as Mollie's sister Anna is about to be killed, she
keeps saying "Are you taking me down here to kill me?" Women killing their husbands. The Ku Klux Klan
proudly parades in the town while some of the Osage watch not bothered. When the death toll is in a
ridiculous state a meeting is held to discern what to do. An Osage leader states that "this money is a
curse. It's white man money." They put up a reward for information, and King says he will add a thousand
dollars to the reward and anyone with info should come to him first. Can we see the wolves?

Scorsese has long been interested in the spiritual side of things. He almost became a priest. His films
"Silence", "Kundun", and "The Last Temptation of Christ" obviously deal in these matters. But even
characters like Henry Hill in "Goodfellas" know they are sinners, but can't escape the sin. Mollie loves
Ernest and is blinded by that love for him. Ernest loves her and seems to have qualms when his uncle
wants him to slowly poison his wife to death. Neither seem able to escape their fates, but nothing seems
preordained. At least not for the white men. The Osage find themselves not even able to pull their own
money out of the bank without permission from their white guardians. Something one only hears
happening to people of color or Britney Spears. Never Richard Murdoch.

After a lot of attempts to get the help of Washington, the FBI finally comes to help solve these murders
and the film becomes a bit of a court room drama at the end. This was originally the center of this film
until Dicaprio wanted a rewrite. Roth and Scorsese rewrote the script focusing more on the Osage story.
The script they delivered is excellent. The film ends with a radio show telling us what happens to each of
the main characters instead of text on a black screen. It is a moving moment where Scorsese himself
gives the final words showing how personal this film is for him, I imagine. It is one of Scorsese's finest
films which is saying something. This is must see cinema, and if possible, in the theatre.

When the oil first erupts into the sky, you the audience think they can keep their children. They have
money to have power and influence and keep their culture because they can teach their own children. A
scene takes place where Ernest and Mollie are attending the naming ceremony of their daughter little
Anna. It is told that once she is given her Osage name it can never be taken away. This is a ceremony
Mollie, big Anna and Reta must have gone through. Sadly, we never hear their Osage names. We never
see their children taught their ways. We see instead the culture of the roaring twenties in the landscape
of Oklahoma. The culture of the white man. Can we see the wolves?

Killers of The Flower Moon can now be seen in theaters and available to purchase on digital and on-demand streaming beginning Tuesday, Dec. 5

Thomas Leverton
Thomas Leverton