Film Analysis: Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is a Grand Narrative of Avarice, Skillfully Rendered

by Sophia Chen
Scorsese's 'Killers of the Flower Moon' Review

Martin Scorsese’s cinematic style is often marked by swift dialogue and rapid action, frequently exhibited by complex characters with dubious motivations. Yet, in this opus, the director provides ample narrative space, filling it with compelling content.

Opting for subtlety, Lily Gladstone delivers a nuanced performance that complements the virtuoso contributions of Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. In this rare Scorsese venture that brings a female character to the forefront, Gladstone becomes the emotional fulcrum of the film, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.

Adapted from David Grann’s enthralling mystery centered around the Osage community in 1920s Oklahoma, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is a novel venture for the octogenarian director. Marking his first foray into the Western genre—a domain he has long aspired to tackle—the film subverts traditional genre roles and perspectives. Furthermore, Scorsese carefully portrays the Osage people, a demographic he has never previously focused on, paying meticulous attention to their traditions, beliefs, and customs.

Unsurprisingly, Scorsese marshals a formidable array of artistic tools for this ambitious undertaking. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and production designer Jack Fisk collaborate to render a visually stunning replica of a 1920s Oklahoma oil town.

Though the film’s runtime of three and a half hours may stir debate, the scope and gravity of the story make a compelling case for its length. The narrative—a blend of historical exposé, true crime, and intricate love story—warrants the attention to detail present in each frame.

The narrative arc begins with the depiction of a late 19th-century Osage ceremony, punctuated by the dramatic emergence of oil from what was once considered barren land. Subsequently, the Osage people experience a sudden influx of wealth, although this prosperity comes under the control of appointed white “guardians.”

The plot introduces Mollie, seeking financial autonomy to pay for medical expenses, and Ernest Burkhart, portrayed by DiCaprio. A World War I veteran with profligate tastes but lacking means, Burkhart arrives under the wing of his manipulative uncle, William Hale (De Niro). As a prominent cattle rancher, Hale exercises significant influence, styling himself as a friend to the Osage community while harboring ulterior motives.

The narrative unfolds as Ernest is coerced into courting Mollie for access to her assets. Despite this subterfuge, a genuine emotional connection develops between them, complicating the family dynamics and leading to a series of troubling events. Subsequent to these occurrences, federal agent Tom White (Jesse Plemons) enters the fray, marking a decisive turn in the story that culminates in a tense courtroom scene.

With a comprehensive supporting cast, including noteworthy musicians and Osage actors, and an evocative score by Scorsese’s late friend Robbie Robertson, the film builds to an ingenious conclusion, one that neatly ties up narrative loose ends. This ambitious effort stands as a testament to Scorsese’s continually evolving artistry, both enriching the cinematic landscape and offering tribute to the Osage community and Native peoples more broadly.

‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ released on AppleTV+, has received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association for its violent content, grisly imagery, and language. With a runtime of 206 minutes, the film earns a four-out-of-four-star rating.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Review

What is the primary focus of the film review?

The primary focus of the film review is an in-depth analysis of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’ The review discusses the director’s style, performances of the main actors, the adaptation from David Grann’s book, and the thematic undercurrents of the film.

Who are the lead actors in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’?

The lead actors in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ are Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone.

How does the film differ from other Scorsese works?

The film is a departure for Scorsese as it marks his first foray into the Western genre. It is also unique in giving significant focus to a female character, portrayed by Lily Gladstone, and in its depiction of the Osage community.

What is the runtime of the film, and is it considered lengthy?

The film has a runtime of 206 minutes. While some may consider this to be lengthy, the review argues that the scope and complexity of the story warrant the extended runtime.

Is the film based on real events?

Yes, the film is based on a book by David Grann which is, in turn, a non-fiction account set among the Osage community in 1920s Oklahoma. It covers a dark chapter in American history involving exploitation, greed, and crime.

What rating has the film received?

‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ has received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association for violent content, grisly imagery, and language.

What artistic collaborators did Scorsese work with on this film?

Scorsese collaborated with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and production designer Jack Fisk to bring his artistic vision for the film to life.

How does the film honor the Osage community?

The film pays meticulous attention to the traditions, beliefs, and customs of the Osage community. Scorsese has described the film as an offering to the Osage and to other Native peoples.

What platform is the film available on?

The film is available on AppleTV+.

How many stars did the film receive in the review?

The film received a four-out-of-four-star rating in the review.

More about Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Review

  • Martin Scorsese’s Filmography
  • David Grann’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Book
  • AppleTV+ Streaming Service
  • Motion Picture Association Ratings
  • The Osage Nation: History and Culture
  • Leonardo DiCaprio’s Acting Career
  • Robert De Niro’s Acting Career
  • Western Genre in Film
  • Interview with Rodrigo Prieto, Cinematographer
  • Profile of Jack Fisk, Production Designer

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Ted_B October 22, 2023 - 5:27 am

Loving the attention to detail on Osage culture. Its high time we get more of this representation in mainstream cinema.

CinemaBuff October 22, 2023 - 8:55 am

4 out of 4 stars, huh? high praise indeed. But coming from Scorsese, not surprising at all. This is gonna be an epic, no doubt.

JennyQ October 22, 2023 - 5:41 pm

De Niro and DiCaprio sharing the screen after 30 years, that’s something you can’t miss. And the fact that it has a strong female lead? Count me in!

Sarah J October 22, 2023 - 8:40 pm

Wow, this review really dives deep. I’ve been a Scorsese fan for years, but never seen him tackle a Western. Can’t wait to see this one.

Mike87 October 22, 2023 - 8:41 pm

Man, 206 minutes? thats like, an investment. but if its Scorsese, i guess its worth it.


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