7 min read

Killers of the Flower Moon shows Martin Scorsese is not only a teacher but a student

Killers of the Flower Moon shows Martin Scorsese is not only a teacher but a student

Killers of the flower moon is another excellent film done by the master of cinema, Mr. Martin Scorsese. Killers of the Flower Moon is in many ways a variety of genres, crime drama, romance drama, western, etc. Scorsese doesn’t need to stick to any to tell this story. He can use it all. The story takes place in the early 1920’s in Oklahoma, when the Osage tribe discovers oil in their land which brings them wealth. Having this wealth draws attention from the white man and not that long after a series of murders start occurring. At the center of it all is a love story between Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart and Lily Gladstone’s Molly Brown Burkhart.

I will always be there for any Scorsese picture. His films aren’t ones to be missed in the theater. I’m so glad that his recent pictures that are being made by streamers are given a theatrical release. Some of us prefer to get lost in the dark room of the theater with no distractions and we’d like to give all our attention to this professor of filmmaking and storytelling. 

The opening or should I say first 30 minutes of this film is captivating. Rodrigo Prieto’s Cinematography and the late Robbie Robertson’s Score is a big part as to why it is. During a ceremony the Osage decide to bury an item and it’s teaching as a new world is coming that they can already see. Oil burst from underneath this ground on their land. Was it a blessing? Or a curse? This scenery when the Osage are dancing as the oil falls on them and the score kicks in brings back memories to older Scorsese films that had such bravado. It’s almost reminiscent to his film (1995) Casino when he’s introducing us to the world and the characters. I can see many of his other films in this one too. He's one of those directors that engrosses you into a film with camera movements. I fell in love with Robbie Robertson’s score in (2019) The Irishman and he nails it again here. Robbie Robertson’s Osage Oil Boom track is what makes the film feel so old school, “cool” to me. It brings the sound of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s maybe even 90’s that was used in film scores. We don’t hear that kind anymore. I hope in the future the way people look to Scorsese for inspiration, they do as well with Robbie Robertson’s music. 

Rodrigo Prieto’s is another legend, one our great cinematographers. His work in this years (2023) Barbie was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. Escapism at it’s finest. I remember reading or listening to Prieto talking about his inspiration for The Irishman and how he looked back at photos from that time 60’s to 70’s road trip pictures which brought what he called the Kodachrome look. In this film he does something similar. He’s grabbing a look from that time. It reminds of when I went on road trips and there was pictures of the past in tourist spots I was visiting or even the history books you can find of the city you live in and how it looked when there was hardly any buildings. He does well at throwing us in past. Credit has to go to the production designer and costumer designer. There are scenes that are so dark which you can say could be of it’s time using candles mostly, but also bringing this sense that there is something sinister lurking around, it’s almost nightmarish. Other scenes out in the open with landscape of the grass or trees, you can see how nature plays a big part in this story and how it’s also important to the Osage. As I was watching some scenes I thought man we are not appreciative of nature’s beauty anymore. I wish I could get rid of this technology and just be lost in nature socializing face to face with others, but then how would I write this. There’s a scene that one of the leaders says “We didn’t ask for this wealth, we just asked for life” I could hear one of the audience members basically saying “amen” to that. We might be so ungrateful. I might be going off, but as I said nature plays a part in this world. There’s a scene when Mollie’s mom Lizzie Q played by Tantoo Cardinal stares at the doorway and suddenly an owl appears. I’m not gonna lie I think I was the only one in the theater that gasp. I sort of have a relationship with this thing. It started when I saw the film (1995) Mi Familia/My Family there is a moment in there where the mother in the river sees and owl fly over her as she has her newborn baby in her hand, which is narrated that it meant something would happen later. Ever since that film I learned a little of the how the owl represents death. I don’t know where it originated from but it’s a common belief. I used it in a script I wrote and in some short scripts I would just add an owl. One of my friends who would read my scripts realized how I would always add something small with an owl. He told me it should be like my signature for my films. Funny.

The acting in the film is first rate. Leonardo DiCaprio is playing Ernst Buckhart well, you can see how is able to charm Mollie, but you also ask yourself questions as to whether he knows he’s being manipulated or not. He knows somewhat, but does he know to what extent? There’s a scene behind bars later in the film when he finds something out, that might remind people as to why he’s one of our Great actors. Robert DeNiro's character William Hale is pure malevolent here. What impresses most is that he hardly has to do anything to know that he is. Which is why I think it makes it even more freighting. His scenes with DiCaprio are the best. I think this is the first time him and DiCaprio are with each other as experienced actors and Scorsese's go to leading men. It’s incredible to see two talents play off each other. I love a scene where DiCaprio’s character is panicking and goes to find DeNiro’s Hale. The only thing I could think of is DiCaprio is doing good here, but I’m wondering whether he’s trying to upstage DeNiro or is he just going a little further when he should hold back. I also wondered if it's true was DeNiro really annoyed during this scene. But what DeNiro does next is what makes him one of our greatest actors. This scene shows why Scorsese has worked with these two over the years. Lily Gladstone stands on her own in this film. I can’t really put her there with the boys because something about her really makes her stand out. If you’ve read my reviews or know me you know how much I love actors that are able to tell stories with their eyes and expressions. Gladstone is one of those talents, you can see where she is being guarded, where she is being vulnerable, defensive, freighten, devastated, heartbroken, she brings it all. It got to a point where I was angry and sad as I realized it was just her now. What horrible life or time to lose all your siblings and mother and then it’s just you. Although Jesse Plemons isn’t in it for much, his scenes with DiCaprio and DeNiro is another thing to cherish of this films ensemble.

Spoiler Warning. Please go watch the film first. The one thing that will most likely throw people off is the ending with a cameo by the maestro himself, Martin Scorsese. It definitely threw me off, but also intrigued me to what he was doing. I know no Scorsese picture just has a scene there for no reason. I was a bit confused but as I started to listen and watch and realize they were doing some radio story about the crimes, but also trying to tell the audience how important this story is and how it was treated as it wasn’t. To me this was something entirely new from Scorsese and I have nothing but respect for a director who may already have their own style but is still experimenting. You can tell that he is still being inspired by other work. He’s not only a teacher but a student still wanting to learn.

I will admit the film is slow paced maybe even slower than The Irishman and long. I actually thought people might’ve walked out on it but I realized they kept coming back. If people are expecting something like Goodfellas, Casino or The Departed, this ain’t it. This is more in the vein of what he did with his last film. Something about him doing this makes the film more fascinating to analyze as to why he made these decisions. It’s more somber. With its runtime of 3 hours and a half, I will say this, there is not a single scene in this film that I felt could’ve been left out. I think it’s the right runtime to tell story it wants to. One thing that did leave me a bit disappointed was that I thought the Native American actors we’re gonna a have a more significant part to the film. It’s not exactly that they don’t. This is still the story of the Osage and the murders that happen and there’s great scenes and acting. What I’m saying is the talk of the native Americans being part of the film and being casted plus the trailer made it seem like they’d have more of their characters as subplots or greater but it mostly turns to just be cutaway scenes for small moments. I hope that makes sense. 

Overall if you enjoy Scorsese, DiCaprio and DeNiro, A True American Crime Story, and miss the old days when productions would produce different kind of stories from auteur directors then Killers of the Flower Moon is one to see in theaters.