Review: Killers of the Flower Moon – A small town epic

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Brendan Fraser


It might be hard to believe that in the 1920s a tribe of Native American people were the richest people in all of America – no, the world. Sure, Rockefeller and Ford might have the edge on any one Osage member, but per capita they were the richest people on earth. Watching these people dance in a rain of crude oil and be chauffeured around in only the finest of garments seems rather odd knowing that the American Frontier Wars (AKA the American Indian Wars) were only just coming to a close. Was such a heel turn possible for the American west? Martin Scorsese’s new film explores this grim slice of Americana, as the opulent Osage people are tormented by the wolves of greed.

In the mid 1920s, war veteran Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns to Fairfax, Oklahoma, where his rich and popular uncle William (Robert De Niro) gives him a job as a cabbie. Ernest soon falls in love with one of his regular fares, an Osage woman named Mollie (Lily Gladstone), and the two marry. But their bliss is short-lived, as one by one, the Osage people are dying. At first the cause seems to be a simple accident, or a string of errant thieves, but as more die and no culprits are found, a greater conspiracy mounts.

Despite the film’s gangster leanings, with the occasional shooting or beating, there is a deep, slow burn to Killers of the Flower Moon. It’s a smouldering family drama. There are dinner table arguments, quiet secrets, and unruly relatives, and all the while there is a bomb under the table – the killings.

While we watch the feuding and the forgiving, we have a pit in our stomach. W never know who will die next, or when. This tension holds strong through the epic runtime, and it can get tiresome. No matter how engaging these people are (and they are all perfectly acted), or how gorgeously rendered the world and outfits are (they’re exquisite), watching this slow unravelling is painful.

Thankfully, there is enough heart and sensitivity that these sensational, shocking crimes aren’t too bitter or cruel to watch. In fact, the murders often sit in the background while the Oklahoma landscape rolls by. But the film isn’t sentimental either, and some parts of the truth will always be bitter, no matter who’s telling it to you.