Sunday, November 5, 2023

Killers of the Flower Moon

Movie Name:
Killers of the Flower Moon
Year of Release: 2023
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Scott Shepherd, Louis Cancelmi, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, Janae Collins, Jillian Dion, Jason Isbell, William Belleau, John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser, Talee Redcorn, Tatanka Means, Yancey Red Corn, Everett Waller, Tommy Schultz, Sturgill Simpson, Ty Mitchell, Gary Basaraba, Charlie Musselwhite, Pat Healy, Steve Hitting, Steve Routman, Gene Jones, Michael Abbot Jr., Jack White, JC MacKenzie, Larry Sellers, Barry Corbin, Samuel French, Wally Welch
Genre: Crime, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
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Synopsis and Review
Following the well received "The Irishman", director Martin Scorsese is back with the adaptation of the book by David Grann, which was itself a bestseller. The book is an in-depth investigation of a series of murders which occurred in Osage County, Oklahoma in the 1920s. The primary victims of these murders were Native Americans who lived in the reservation, where a series of oil wells had been found, which had converted many of those inhabitants into wealthy individuals. Though those Native Americans had the rights to the land and to the profits from it, they were still being heavily regulated and treated as second rate citizens or for that matter, as people without full capacity to manage their own wealth. The book also narrates the process by which the FBI became involved in the investigation, including J. Edgar Hoover's direction and assignment of the case.
The narrative of the film focuses on Ernest Burkhart, who arrives in Osage County after being in the first World War, where he suffered some injuries. His brother Byron is already there, and much like him, he is taken under the wing of the charismatic and powerful William Hale, who is their uncle and is also named King, due to his sphere of influence across the area (he is also well known as a benefactor of the Osage County reservation, which includes speaking the native language). Hale tells Burkhart the area is dominated by the affluence of the Native Americans who have become very well off due to the oil wells that were uncovered and are being drilled all over their reservation. He is told to keep an eye out and to try to ingratiate himself with Mollie Kyle, whose family owns oil headrights. Ernest who does some armed robbery with his brother and a few others to feed off his gambling endeavors, eventually connects with Mollie, by driving her around. They fall in love, and much to Hale's content get married. Hale in the interim communicates to Ernest that more fortune and wealth will head his way if more of Mollie's family dies, including her sisters and her frail mother. These deaths start occurring rapidly, commencing with Mollie's sister Minnie, who dies of a mysterious illness. Hale orders Byron to kill Anna, Mollie's other sister, who is a bit hot tempered and has a problem with drinking. As the number of murders continues to escalate, the Osage Council decide to send a representative to D.C. to call out attention to the debacle taking place. He's also murdered, and all of these murders are still yet to be investigated. Even Mollie's attempt at hiring a private investigator goes nowhere. Things finally take a turn after Mollie's last sister is also killed, and the Bureau of Investigation finally sends agents to assess what has been going on. 
"Killers of the Flower Moon" is a lengthy film that does fly by, much of it thanks to the vivid characters that Martin Scorsese and his cast bring to life. While for the majority of the film's duration we witness truly horrifying events taking place, it's nonetheless an interesting and arresting narrative that once again surfaces how greed corrupts everything, and how easily some characters get tainted and influenced to do truly despicable actions. Scorsese focus the narrative on his take of Ernest Burkhart, who is portrayed as someone easily manipulated, but also someone who progressively loses his soul as he continues to do his uncle's bidding, without much thought or consideration for the consequences of his actions. Even if his actions cause pain to the family he has created, including his wife, the steely yet quiet Mollie. It is a film that once again reinforces Scorsese's perspective on family, crime and lead characters that are morally ambiguous, one that doesn't shy away from showcasing the horrific things people will do in order to pursue their own self interests. It's also an epic on a grand scale, covering a variety of occurrences and characters, which at times renders some as footnotes, but the film never loses its direction. The cast is uniformly fantastic, starting with Leonardo DiCaprio who loses himself in this role of a meek individual, who is self serving, but also wants to please his uncle, his wife, and just do what he's told. He truly disappears behind this character who simply doesn't know where to turn, and whose actions are tearing and destroying so much of the lives of those he holds dear. He gets great support from Robert De Niro as the machiavellian William Hale, and Lily Gladstone as the determined but quiet Mollie. The production team is impeccable, including Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography, Jack Fisk's production design, Jacqueline West's costume design and the impeccable editing from Thelma Schoonmaker. A wonderful film not to be missed.