When the news of Martin Scorsese bringing us his 26th full-length feature film, we never imagined how Killers of the Flower Moon would turn out. We’re all aware of how the 80-year-old director plies his craft, so we can always expect artistic shots, masterful acting, a compelling plot, and at least two hours’ worth of movie. 206 minutes is no joke, and luckily for us, neither is this film–not by a long shot.
Scorsese has worked with the best of the best in the industry–from Ben Kingsley to Al Pacino, to Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s also had perennial collaborators via legends in their own right in Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. After welcoming relative newcomer Lily Gladstone to top billing and Jesse Plemons of Breaking Bad renown to the supporting cast, we have an intriguing film that keeps you at the edge of your seat for the whole 206 minutes of its runtime.
All Quiet on the Midwestern Front
Based on David Grann’s book of the same name, we witness the chronicling of a series of grisly murders that essentially forced to the United States to establish one of its most powerful law enforcement agencies. The movie’s plot follows William King Hale (De Niro), a wealthy entrepreneur and de facto political figure, and his nephew Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), a simple man who mostly lives to please his uncle. As the supposed town’s big cheese, Hale is loved and respect by the locals–most of all, by his nephew Ernest.
Mollie Brown (Gladstone) is a Native American from the Osage Tribe, and her family owns a fairly large piece of real estate on a land well-known for its oil. Given these circumstances, we see from the get-go it’s only a matter of time before she and Ernest cross paths–but not for the reasons we’d assume.
Her love story with Ernest is a bittersweet tale that will have you both thinking twice about how things came to be and feeling all the emotions such tragedies would entail. The story can be likened to a romance coupled with a murder mystery. Only in this case, the only ones unaware are the people getting murdered. The film takes its time in establishing who matters in the story–it shows us how everyone is connected and how the world works in this small 1920s town.
It allows you to take everything in before taking a sharp turn into the macabre.
A series of subversions
As mentioned earlier, the film is more than 3 hours long. Just to put things into perspective, we barely felt that much time pass. The pacing is phenomenal, and the story beats are knocked down seamlessly, one after the other. The murder mystery aspect can get frustrating as you’re all outside looking in–while the unassuming fall prey to their untimely demise. This is the 1920s, after all. Life was not only simpler, but people were also more impressionable and trusting. You can only watch as Hale works his way through the story via Robert De Niro’s acting prowess.
If you’re expecting early 1900s shootouts a la Red Dead Redemption, you’ll be disappointed. Mostly because RDR happened in the 1890s–but I digress. This film involves crime, but it does very little to romanticize it. Crime is simply a fact–and it’s also there to drive the plot. They’re simple, straight to the point, and unpretty as can be. The way the film shows them in varying degrees gives you a sense of realism and dread. You’ll easily forget about the love story subplot by the one-hour mark, only to then be left wondering how things will unfold–especially if you’re going in blind, having zero knowledge of the source material, or the real events that transpired.
It’s difficult to not give away any spoilers, as Killers of the Flower Moon–as with almost all Scorsese films, is all about the details. Miss a scene, and you’ll likely get confused. Miss a crucial piece of dialogue, and you might wonder why a certain character is the way he or she is. There’s a twist at almost every turn, and the writing makes sure that you follow close behind.
No less than superb
We’ve already established the stellar cast that Scorsese is working with. Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone are the backbone of the film–and their acting chops made sure that viewers gave the stellar writing the attention it deserves. Jesse Plemons delivered a solid performance as Tom White, a member of J Edgar Hoover’s Bureau of Investigation–a precursor to the FBI we know today.
Aside from the equally talented supporting cast, we get a few surprises from John Lithgow and Academy Award-winner Brendan Fraser portraying two attorneys pitted against each other in the latter part of the film. Even Jack White makes an appearance, looking nothing like his usual self. The compelling story is the meat and potatoes of the film, but the cast definitely made sure that everything fell into place.
The cinematography is gorgeous–but then again you’d be surprised if a Scorsese film lacked that particular detail. The 1920s is known mostly for its glitz and glamour, but we tend to forget that in the rural state of Oklahoma, things aren’t as lively. Still, you wouldn’t be able to tell by how vibrant everything looked.
Killers of the Flower Moon is a moviegoers’ masterpiece. If you’re a fan of great storytelling, quality acting, top-notch cinematography, and a bit of murder, this will definitely be a must-watch. With a runtime of more than three hours, this won’t be a walk in the park–but it won’t be a slog either. Martin Scorsese, in our opinion, definitely outdid himself compared to his prior film. Perhaps one gripe you could have with The Irishman you could actually feel the 209 minutes. It was never the case here.
After seeing DiCaptrio’s sixth and De Niro’s tenth partnership with Scorsese, it’s interesting to think of what films they might have left together. Given they’re up there in age, the clock is ticking. Still, this film is a testament to the trust, respect, and dedication they have towards each other–and with everyone else operating at the same level, it’s also a testament to Scorsese’s legendary status as a director.
Killers of the Flower Moon is now showing in cinemas across the Philippines.