Killers of the Flower Moon is Martin Scorsese’s’ latest cinematic marvel, depicting the murders of the Osage Native American’s and how their oil wealth brought vultures from all over. Similarly to what happened with HBO’s Watchmen series in how it educated audiences on the Tulsa Black Wall Street killings, Flower Moon presents a time and place in U.S. history where Osage Native Americans owned massive amounts of wealth and even had white people tending to their services. In this world where money and greed ruled all, we again see the white men and women who stood in the face of progress choose to kill and steal the wealth they envied. In a similar fashion to Tulsa and the massacres that took place there, Killers of the Flower Moon tells more history than our textbooks would ever allow and truly emphasizes how atrocious our crimes towards the Native Americans were.
In the hills of the Osage lands in Oklahoma during the 1920’s the Osage people saw enormous wealth come to them after oil was discovered underneath their land. Overnight, these Native Americans who were seen as “savages” by whites became some of the wealthiest people in the country, flipping the script on the status quo and enjoying life just as the wealthy white elites did. This newfound wealth also brought oil companies and workers out to the Osage, creating trouble at every turn in the name of greed. Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) is one such man who comes to the Osage lands to work for his uncle William Hale (Robert Di Nero) and attempt to “earn” himself some of that oil money by getting in with Mollie (Lily Gladstone)
Killers of the Flower Moon burns slowly as it spends the time to really set the scene and identify all the players. This film acts as a history lesson and a reaffirmation of the atrocities we put the Native Americans to, taking whatever, we wanted and leaving a wake of death behind us. The imagery in this film has been discussed at great length in terms of how it portrays this senseless violence, with many taking issue with how remorseless and casually the Natives were killed in the film. Personally, I see this working alongside Scorsese’s’ larger goal of showing you just how little these people valued the Native’s lives, not thinking twice about murder and theft in the name of making a few extra bucks.
Robert De Niro brings such a powerful and curious energy to the story, playing like he’s a great friend to the Natives while secretly wishing he could have all that land and money to himself. DiCaprio is far more naive as to the total plans going on around him, but he’s a willing, cowardly participant in wreaking havoc behind-the-scenes. Lily Gladstone is simply tremendous in a role that’s devastatingly sad, surrounded by death and despair and never able to make sense of the evil. While her role feels smaller in comparison to the men, Gladstone’s performance captures so much pain in her silence, grieving for her people and feeling helpless to the disease that is these white men.
For some, the three-and-a-half-hour runtime may seem daunting, but the film moves along at a great pace and educates you while also shocking you at the same time. I would’ve loved an actual intermission in the film, but that didn’t ruin the experience for me in the slightest. This film is about something insanely important and a true story that’s vastly looked over by most in our country. Scorsese has been incredibly personal with his last few films, but Killers of the Flower Moon really marks a creative turn in his storytelling and how he gets audiences to really understand our history. Killers of the Flower Moon will sit with you for days and will hopefully inspire us all to dive deeper into understand our history and the realities of how the Native Americans were treated every step of the way.
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