The Killers of the Flower Moon | Review by: Amanda Guarragi

 When we look back at history, the media has masked the brutality that occurred when colonizers came to North America. There is a stripped-down version of this and that of the Indigenous people. The book Killers of the Flower Moon, written by David Grann, highlighted the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI. Grann, an American journalist, crafted his novel with court filings and actual evidence proving that William Hale (the Sheriff of Fairfax) orchestrated the murders of the Osage for head rights and insurance. The more Grann uncovered, the more sickening and disturbing the tangled web of deceit and murder became. In the Killers of the Flower Moon film adaptationdirector Martin Scorsese follows Grann’s narrative based on those factual findings. And frames the story as a depiction of the evil within the town and the tragedy one family faces. 

Scorsese clearly wanted to highlight the people of the Osage nation and their way of life before their land was taken from them. The Indigenous tribes in Fairfax, Oklahoma (Osage County) were all living fruitfully. They had struck oil and had made lives for themselves. There was a richness to their way of life; whether it was jewels, cattle or family, they were living off their land. As a seasoned storyteller, Scorsese delivers a raw perspective into the life of the Osage. He expertly weaves the history of the Osage at the peak of their success with the dehumanization and destruction of what they’ve built. Helping bring Scorsese’s vision to life is Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto, who gorgeously captures the scenic landscapes of the Osage and the vastness of how valuable their land is. Prieto’s keen eye delivers culturally significant images of the Osage tribe, proving to be vital in understanding that they were being stripped of their land and agency. They were being controlled, manipulated and murdered by someone they trusted. 

When audiences first meet Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), he navigates his way through the Fairfax station to meet with his uncle William “King” Hale (Robert De Niro). Their first sit-down is significant because it shows the power dynamic between them, which comes into play further in the story. When Hale discusses Burkhart’s place working for him, he also leans in on his social life and his preferences for women. Hale specifically addresses if Burkhart had any interest in Indigenous women, it would be advantageous for both of them. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker finely layers the images of the murdered Osage amid these conversations that seemingly dehumanize them to display the impact of this mentality. At first, we see that Burkhart genuinely cares for the Osage and wants to keep them safe, but the underlying mystery of the murders breaks through his facade. To see De Niro and DiCaprio work this closely together, after many years working separately with Scorsese, was an incredible treat. Apart from expertly delivering their lines with a thick layer of manipulation and deceit, their eyes gave away their true intentions for their characters. 

When Burkhart meets Mollie Brown (Lily Gladstone), he becomes her driver and falls in love with her. At the time, he didn’t feel the influence of his uncle in telling him to marry her for the money, but once they got married, his power over him changed. Gladstone is the heart of this film and keeps everyone grounded. Mollie is overprotective of her mother and sisters. She is more level-headed and understands the role of the Osage when it comes to the power dynamics of the white men entering Fairfax, Oklahoma. Even though Gladstone remains composed, she delivers a powerful and emotional performance. Similar to DiCaprio and De Niro, much is conveyed through her eyes. Gladstone didn’t have as many lines as her male counterparts, perhaps intentionally, but when she did speak, her words could cut through anyone. The chemistry between DiCaprio and Gladstone was comfortable as if they’d known each other for years. 

Killers of the Flower Moon is another masterful outing by Martin Scorsese. Every aspect of this film authentically highlights the horrors of the Osage killings. As each hour passes, the manipulation becomes more forceful, and Ernest loses himself in following orders. The ending of this film perfectly encapsulates the narrative from the 1920s, as Scorsese is keen on incorporating different mediums throughout history. William Hale had said this massacre would be a passing story. People wouldn’t care down the line. It would be passed down from generation to generation without any justice being served. Co-writers Roth and Scorsese have brought this story to mainstream audiences to reveal the truth of these murders. It is relevant to the history of Indigenous people, but it also applies to other marginalized groups who have been oppressed and continue to suffer. Unfortunately, some people are wolves dressed in sheep's clothing.


Review by: Amanda Guarragi 

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