NOW IN THEATERS! Moving his way from Netflix to Apple, Martin Scorsese is back with yet another three-and-a-half-hour epic. Based on the novel by Dad Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon recounts the story of the systematic murders of the Osage Indigenous peoples during the 1930s. We open in Osage County, Oklahoma. After discovering oil on the Osage reservations, the native Americans found themselves filthy rich. So rich, they hired the white man to handle menial roles, and the white man, in turn, married the Osage women as a way to inherit their lands.
This particular day marks the arrival of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), returning from duty in World War I and seeking employment with his uncle William Hale (Robert De Niro) alongside his brother Byron (Scott Shepherd). Quickly, the power dynamic is established as William insists Ernest, and others, call him “King.” King owns a cattle ranch and has become an essential ally to the Osage tribe. However, his goal is to take the land from the Osage through marriage. That is where Ernest comes in.
“…many members of the Osage die off. She and Ernest will inherit everything once Mollie’s last sister is gone…”
Ernest begins making a living as a cab driver. That is how he meets Mollie (Lily Gladstone), who, along with her sisters, stands to make a fortune by inheriting the oil-rich land from her mother, Lizzie (Tantoo Cardinal). Quickly, Earnest makes his move on Mollie, and the two get married. The hitch here is that Ernest actually loves Mollie. One by one, Mollie’s sisters wind up dead. In fact, many members of the Osage die off. She and Ernest will inherit everything once Mollie’s last sister is gone. Much to the delight of William, as the land will become part of his estate thanks to Ernest.
Like many stories from the sordid past of the United States, Killers of the Flower Moon tells the true story of the Osage people, not just of their murders but of the Osage plea to the President to investigate these murders. The killings themselves were non-descript at times. There was no Godfather-like massacre, as the slayings were subtle, whether they were executions in the middle of nowhere or the slow poisoning of the white man’s native wives. Like many tragedies, this serves as a moving history of what happened in hopes that it will never be repeated.
This film works because of the master storytelling of Scorsese and the brilliant performances of DiCaprio and De Niro. You’ll figure this out quickly, but De Niro plays William as two-faced, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You know he’s terrible, but he is in it for the long con. DiCaprio portrays the loyal simpleton with layers. He’s torn between his uncle and his wife. Ernest’s earnest attempt to compartmentalize William’s nefarious deeds contrasts with his love for Mollie and their children.
"…I was way ahead of the story."