Killers of the Flower Moon is an incisive commentary on the diefication of the ideology of "manifest destiny" in furtherence of white supermacy as justification for murder. It's a must see.
Killers of the Flower Moon is an incisive commentary on the ideology of "manifest destiny" in furtherence of white supermacy as justification for murder. Adapated from the 2017 nonfiction book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by journalist David Grann, Killers pulls audiences into the heart of a plot against wealthy members of the Osage Nation in Osage County, Oklahoma.
The narrative of the book, however, uses the murders as a vehicle to detail how the bureau of federal investigators (FBI) came into being. Like most stories rooted in US history, and told by white American writers, its non-white actors take a back seat to the elements and aspects of the tale deemed "more fitting" to focus on. Thankfully, the story of the creation of the FBI isn't the one that interested co-writer/director Martin Scorsese. The film shfts away from being an account told from the persepctive of one of the burea investigators, Tom White, to being a slowly unfolding murder consipriacy viewed primarily through the lens of co-conspiratior, Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio). It, along with the many other narrative shifts, is a wicked decision. Being forced to watch these events unfold through an utterly loathsome character leverages the tropes of the American Western into a biting commentary of how white people can justify anything - including multiple murder- to seize what they believe is their by right of desity. There are few more cutting indigments of the sense of entitlement than watching the scam unravel in real time.
This revisionsist western epic reinserts historical truth into a well acted, beautifully shot and paced tale that also exposes the underbelly of the criminal procedural as its third act widens the lenghts to make it clear the horrid motivations of the power hungery were in no way limited to Osage County. Killers of the Flower Moon is insanely well casting and beautifully acted. It's got depth, brutal honesty, and a building tension that holds up through the end. It's deliberately off-putting to realize the primary lens is through DiCaprio's character but damned if that realization doesn't balance out to a net positive for a story. It subtle but this story framing isn't just a shift in order to focus on the white man's life. Viwer's are constantly left feeling some type of way every second; even to the parts where they may initially be "can't relate" about. It's far more thoughtful and unflinching than usual and successfully frames its narrative as a tale about the evil that white men do without infantlizing its vicitms.
Scorsese knew it wasn't his place and he didn't have the range to tell the story from an Indigenous perspective but he damn well knows how to tell a story about the evil men do in plain sight that's beyond compelling. By staying in his narrative lane, so to speak, Killers of the Flower Moon draws stark comparrison how comfortable white people are with stories that stack white opinions on non-white bodies by with a tale blatantly driving the narrative through white man's greed and insatiable sense of entitlement. Towards that end. Lily Gladstone's portrayal of Mollie Burkart is undertstated yet evocative perfectly frames exactly how despicable everything going on around her truly is. Her calm center a perfect foil for DiCaprio's more agitated performance as well as an riviting juxtaposistion to the insidious sevngalieque nature of DeNiro's brilliant turn as wealthy landowner uncle William Hale.
It's impossible to come away from Killers intensely engaging storytelling - that makes the most of everything Scorsese knows about building a crime thriller - without wanting more insight from the perspective of Gladeston's Mollie. But depsite the obvious positive impact the Osage consultants had on everthing from setting, costuming, production, to dialogue, it's clear that story belongs in the hands of an Indegious (hopefully Osage) storyteller. Plus the senstivity and nuance Gladestone exudes makes everything she pours into the part (along with everything we learn through her) hit that much harder. So I'm honestly glad they didn't try.
Killers of the Flower Moon is some of Martin Scorsese's best work. It's not perfect but from the production, locations, the score, the performances and every moment of silence is powerful, purposeful and more than worth the run runtime.
Director: Martin Scorsese Writers: Eric Roth, Martin Scorsese
Synopsis: Set in 1920s Oklahoma, Killers of the Flower Moon depicts the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation, a string of brutal crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror.
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