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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo
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‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ film boasts scale and elegance

The film earns 10 Oscar nominations

One of the latest and greatest historical biopics has hit theaters, and it’s a defining film of 2023.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” (2023, rated R) is directed by Hollywood filmmaker Martin Scorsese. He has produced other historic films such as “The Irishman,” “Goodfellas” and “Casino.”

“Killers” tells the tale of the Wahzhazhe or Osage tribe in Oklahoma during the 1920’s. The story tells how some opportunistic white people traveled to the Osage land in Oklahoma in an attempt to marry into the families of the Osage and claim their vast wealth. 

This money came from the immense oil found on their land that they had refined and sold for millions of dollars.Some of these travelers were willing to commit even murder to get a taste of the Osage’s money, which is where the plot of “Killers” begins. 

The film revolves around Ernest Burkhart (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his attempt to make a play for the money with the help of his uncle William Hale (portrayed by Robert Deniro). 

As the film unfolds, a sickening plot of Burkhart and Hale strategically murdering the Osage people to claim their money emerges.

A critical part of this film’s achievement lies in its leading actors' performances. Three of them were nominated for Oscars at the 96th Academy Awards earlier this year, with DiCaprio being nominated for Best Actor, Deniro for Best Supporting Actor and Lily Gladstone (who portrays Mollie Burkhart in the film) for Best Actress.

The actors bring a special flavor that really clues the viewer into just exactly how horrific the actions in the movie were. The actors expertly portray their descents into madness, as well as the fronts put up to the Osage people almost seamlessly. 

The film contains 63 named and credited indigenous actor roles, and all but 14 are actual members of the Osage nation, according to entertainment weekly.

“Killers” boasts a runtime of three hours and 26 minutes, but it uses every second wisely to accurately and carefully tell the true historical story buried within.

The film is based on a book of the same name by David Grann. The book recounts the true story, one that Scorsese worked hard to fit into picture format. This came with its own difficulties.

One of the choices made in the film is to focus more on Ernest and Mollie’s marriage and its tumultuous state, as he was planning the murder of her whole family right under her nose. 

Scorsese claimed that he decided to tell their love story from a conversation that he had with Ernest and Mollie’s granddaughter when she told him that Ernest really did love Mollie. This choice led to some pushback from actual Osage members. Christopher Cote, an Osage language interpreter, thinks that the story should’ve focused more on Mollie and her family.

"Martin Scorsese, not being Osage, I think he did a great job representing our people, but this history is being told almost from the perspective of Ernest Burkhart and they kind of give him this conscience and kind of depict that there's love. But when somebody conspires to murder your entire family, that's not love,” Cote said to the Hollywood Reporter. 

While some of the historical facts of the film are being debated and considered, there is plenty more of this movie that does an incredible job.

The soundtrack was done by Robbie Robertson, who expertly utilized elements of traditional Osage music to produce the tracks heard throughout the film. The soundtrack was nominated for Best Original Score. Sadly, Robertson passed away two months before the film debuted in theaters.

One thing the film could have improved upon was pacing in the last act. There were scenes that felt like the credits were about to roll, before going right back into the story. This led to the final moments on screen feeling disjointed and jumpy, as though the film was going to slide in another scene indefinitely.

All in all, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a beast of runtime and depth. It tells the horrific and tragic story of the Osage with great scale and detail. For being the size that it is, the screen draws viewers to be right up front with the actions in the film, whether they like it or not. “Killers of the Flower Moon” earns a solid eight out of ten.

Agree with me? Disagree? Wanna talk about this film? Any film? Suggest one? Feel free to email me at devin_smith1@taylor.edu