Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Review: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ stuns big screen with dark themes, succumbs to narrative confusion

Back stab of Native American tribe by opportunists left in emotional confusion.

This past weekend, Martin Scorsese debuted his highly anticipated feature film “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a three-and-a-half hour epic that grabbed audiences with its story of love, betrayal and murder, but ultimately wasn’t able to justify its bloated runtime.  

“Killers of the Flower Moon” told the true story of the Osage Native American tribe when oil was found on their land. The Osages became wealthy from owning the oil rights, which attracted white opportunists to the reservation. The opportunists plotted to gain this wealth in any way possible, including marrying and killing Osage people.  

The story centers around a man named Ernest Burkhart, who comes to live with his uncle William Hale after returning from World War I. Ernest falls in love and marries a wealthy Osage woman, Mollie Kyle. William, who has already gained the trust of many Osage people, devises a plan to murder everyone in Mollie’s family so that the oil rights are inherited to Ernest and eventually William, a plan Ernest takes part in.  

The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest, Robert De Niro as William, and Lily Gladstone as Mollie, and with a name like Scorsese attached to the project, it is easy to see why this film was so highly anticipated.  

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The film effortlessly showed the duality of the opportunists as they show their love to the Osage people while simultaneously stabbing them in the back. Scorsese expertly shows the power that William holds as the puppet master for the whole scheme, making it extremely heartbreaking to watch as the Osage people put more and more trust in him.  

Gladstone gave the best performance of the film, unafraid to show raw emotion as Mollie watches the tragic events unfold. Her portrayal of grief was unmatched, so much so that it outshined even DiCaprio, whose performance was convincing and nuanced.  

But one of the more questionable decisions made by Scorsese was to center the film around Ernest. For one, knowing early on who is murdering the Osage people takes much of the suspense out of the story. But the strangest part of this decision lies in Scorsese’s attempt to almost win sympathy for Ernest.   

It is no secret that Ernest is not too bright, making him an easy target for William’s manipulations. Scorsese makes it clear that Ernest was, in part, manipulated into participating in William’s plan, but is that enough to excuse Ernest’s actions that deliberately hurt and deceived the woman he claimed to love?  

While his actions would make him seem evil, Scorsese does not paint him as such. The film is not clear in its direction, leaving the audience confused on how to feel about Ernest. Are we supposed to pity him? Hate him? Sympathize with him? Feel angry? A film dealing with a subject this heavy should not have the lack of emotional direction it did.  

It would have made infinitely more sense to center the film around Mollie. Watching her go through the grief of her family members dying one by one and ultimately learning it was at the hands of her husband would have made for a much richer story that is able to have an element of suspense.  

Despite this, the film did indeed pay respect to the Osage people, as Scorsese consulted with them throughout the entire production of the film. “Killers of the Flower Moon” was filmed in Osage Nation, a federally recognized tribal land in Oklahoma, with DiCaprio, De Niro and Gladstone all learning the Osage language.  

Overall, “Killers of the Flower Moon” was captivating in telling the tragic story of the Osage murders with intricacy and respect; however, the film’s superfluous runtime lead the film to be muddy at times and lack direction.  

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is available to watch in theaters now.   

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