Martin Scorsese returns to direct Killers of the Flower Moon, four years after his second most recent film The Irishman, which earned ten Oscar nods, including Best Picture and Best Director. Killers of the Flower Moon is set against the backdrop of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s
In Killers, Scorsese reunites the genius pairing of Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver), who all worked together on Scorsese’s 2015 comedy short film The Audition. The duo plays nephew Ernest Burkhart and uncle William King Hale, respectively. Lily Gladstone also stars as Mollie, Ernest’s Native American wife.
The film is adapted from a book of the same name, written by David Grann. The book is based on the Osage murders from 1918-1931, a series of murders in which between 60 and 150 Osage people were murdered after oil was found on their land. The murders were the first major criminal case investigated by the Bureau of Investigation, which later became the FBI.
The breath-taking backdrop of rural Oklahoma sets the scene for a visually pleasing film with the scenery enhanced by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s (Brokeback Mountain) stunning work. The costumes were magnificently designed by Jacqueline West, who previously worked on The Revenant, Dune and The Social Network.
The film opens with the Osage people discovering oil in their reservation. The tribe become wealthy after selling the oil and exploiting it. However, the reservation laws require white guardians to manage their money.
When Burkhart arrives in Osage territory, he falls in love with Mollie, and simultaneously, the oil beneath her feet. He becomes increasingly involved with Hale, who aims to remove the Natives from the equation so he can become a wealthy oil tycoon, a story which is all too common throughout history.
Scorsese’s direction and screenplay could be described as a defining career move. The film is emotionally intelligent, with the score delivered beautifully by Robbie Robertson. Robertson has worked with Scorsese on a number of films, including Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street and Gangs of New York. Killers of the Flower Moon is the last score of Robertson’s career, as he passed away in August of this year. The film is dedicated to his memory.
Killers of the Flower Moon is a beautifully sentimental film, with performances from Lily Gladstone and Tantoo Cardinal leaving the viewer wanting more. It also serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when minorities, and the earth, are exploited for the sake of money. This film is surely one to keep an eye on as we make our way into the awards season.