Martin Scorsese ('The Irishman', 'Silence') is back with another cinematic feat of epic proportions. Produced for AppleTV+, filmgoers will first have the opportunity to see this grand vision on the big screen for a limited run thanks to Paramount Pictures before it hits the streaming service.
Set in Oklahoma in the 1920s, 'Killers of the Flower Moon' focuses on a string of murders targeting Native Americans - newly wealthy thanks to the discovery of oil in the Osage Nation (the film's synopsis will tell you that the discovery of oil made them "some of the richest people in the world overnight".)
'Killers' tells a particularly vicious and evil true tale of manipulation and extortion – placing Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio, 'The Wolf of Wall Street'), William King Hale (Robert De Niro, 'The Irishman'), and Molly Kyle (Lily Gladstone, 'Certain Women') at its very core. Thanks to the proficiency of Scorsese's storytelling, this is a story that slowly unravels over a (much discoursed) three-and-a-half-hour runtime – revealing twists, turns, and brutal revelations throughout. As such, it would be remiss of me to go into much more detail than this for those who are new to this somewhat buried story from United States history.
'KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON' TRAILER
As I'm sure no one doubted, Scorsese once again delivers superb, visceral and impactful storytelling in 'Killers', which he fills to the brim with pot-boiling tension and primal rage. Scorsese very rarely holds a punch, but it's evident that he's never been quite as aggressive in his approach than here – presenting a film that lets you fall in love with characters before slowly but surely dismantling your emotions; leaving you empty, vapid, and full of fury by the end.
The film assembles a truly commanding and courageous cast. DiCaprio has, arguably, never played a character so despicable and repugnant (closely tied with Calvin Candy of Quintin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'). It's territory Leo rarely traverses, but with the right filmmaker behind the lense, completely excels with. Despite crafting such an ugly portrayal of a venomous human, this is one of his greatest and most powerful achievements to date – utterly transfixing every moment he's on the screen. Robert DeNiro also turns up the heat, bringing a trademark callous charm to an unsavoury role. Having well and truly entered the "just sign me up to absolutely anything and let me cruise through a mediocre screenplay" period of his career, it's great to see him still passionate about his craft, displaying a willingness to truly invest himself in important characters where it matters most. It is Gladstone, however, who steals every frame of the film, delivering a silent, subtle, and soul-destroying performance which will be remembered as one of the greatest of the decade. A relative newcomer, Gladstone is a star in the making and, even if not for 'Killers', an undoubted future Oscar-winner.
Though some may struggle, those who find investment in story, cast and filmmaker will find a captivating and superbly crafted near-masterpiece of U.S. cinema.
'Killers of the Flower Moon' is an exceptional film, using its cast and creatives to full effect. It is not necessarily an "intellectual" film, but it's one that demands dedication, patience, and focus. Every moment more important than the last. In this day and age of digital distraction and small burts of attention in filmgoers, my one fear is that 'Killers' won't perform very well amongst the "general audience" (the core group of viewers whom films must rely on to make or break). In my critic's screening alone I overheard one audience member lament the "long" runtime of movie trailers – stating that they "didn't watch the trailer because I have a short attention span and I get bored." One wonders if they knew the film's intense run time going into the screening. Another member of the audience had to be told by security to get off their phone... three times. Even after being asked by security to turn off phones upon cinema entry, and then again by studio PR prior to film roll. 'Killers' well and truly warrants its insane runtime, allowing an important story to be told with love and care, and within an essential time period. Though some may struggle, those who find investment in story, cast and filmmaker will find a captivating and superbly crafted near-masterpiece of U.S. cinema.
Raw, intense, and magnificent, 'Killers of the Flower Moon' is a rewarding cinematic experience for those who commit to investment in story, cast, and filmmaker. It's a film well and truly ready to upset an already competitive Oscar season, but more importantly, open up real-world conversations that should have been had long ago.