Language : English
Director : Martin Scorsese
Writers : Eric Roth | Martin Scorsese | David Grann
Cast : Leonardo DiCaprio | Robert De Niro| Lily Gladstone | Jesse Plemons | John Lithglow
Genre : Crime | Drama | History
Streaming in Theatres Near You.
Spoiler Alert: This review contains mild spoilers regarding the nature and theme of the film.
When Martin Scorsese confirmed to have started Killers of the Flower Moon’s production in 2021, there was no doubt that it would be another masterpiece from the master. It was to be a dissemination of yet another instance of prolonged systematic cruelty and violence perpetrated on a minority by the settlers in America.
Scorsese does not want to push boundaries here, he is not here to challenge and evolve his craftsmanship. This time, the subject matter is too serious, about a story forgotten too fast and recalled today by only a few. He wants to tell it as sincerely and factually accurate as possible. He accomplishes exactly that with this picture.
De Niro gives a devastatingly disconcerting performance as Hale(the antagonist); a detached yet always in-control conniver. He designs his evil machinations with the same cadence as an army general plans for an uphill battle. Unjustified violence and death might abound, but it’s all justified if you win in the end.
Money is money, Wealth is Wealth, Power is Power. If casualties are inevitable in their pursuit, then so be it, they are just pebbles to be turned over. A few evil men set out to do this until they are stopped. But just because they happen to be finally stopped, doesn’t mean what they have brought forth will necessarily disappear from the world.
DiCaprio finds the right balance for Ernest (the protagonist); this is a finely calibrated performance. Did he really love his wife? Or was he in it just for the money, or was he caught up between them, and simply took the most expedient path? We don’t know and Leo plays it like the character himself doesn’t know either. That’s fine, sometimes people are unknowable to themselves and sometimes that lack of self-knowledge can lead to their ruination.
The other stand-out lead performance is Lily Gladstone’s. Scorsese once remarked Bernard Herrmann’s iconic score for ‘The Taxi Driver’, ‘supplied the psychological basis for the film’. In Killers of the Flower Moon, I like to think it is Gladstone’s performance. A talent that should have been recognized much earlier by Hollywood.
There are so many other actors in this truly ensemble cast that deserve a mention, John Lithgow shows up 3 hours into the film, fits right in and nails his performance. Jesse Plemons is a natural and steals every scene he is in. The casting director for this film definitely deserves a raise.
Editing a film with a runtime of 208 minutes without inducing sporadic pacing issues is no easy task. But Thelma Schoonmaker is a genius of equal footing with Scorsese. She simply pulls it off and you feel there isn’t a single frame that was undeserved.
There are a lot of takes regarding that ending scene, and how it instantly cements itself as one of Scorsese’s greatest. It is. It’s hard to restrain myself from talking about it; but If I do, there’s the risk of deflating its intended impact for viewers yet to watch the film.
When I walked out of the theatre, I found myself beginning to wrestle with a fundamental question about Film, this medium/artform we love so much.
The world is an evil place. I just saw a near-clinical depiction of evil perpetrated with little remorse against a minority group for 3.5 hours. But what is the Film’s role here?
What happened to the Osages has happened before, continues to happen and will happen in the future. There have always been films like Killers of the Flower Moon that put oppression under microscopic examination and managed to make a connection with the general populace. Yet, it keeps happening, so you can’t help but think, is Film as an art-form this limited? In the end, do these movies serve a purpose other than to showcase the talents of the production involved and as a crash course history lesson?
I think Scorsese wants us to allow Film to be and do more than what it is currently allowed to be or do. Maybe if we take this art-form more seriously and engage with it beyond a passive level, people might have a chance to develop a more nuanced empathetic understanding of the world. That probably won’t fix all our problems, but hey, it’s a start!
Verdict : 7/7 stars
- Lily Gladstone was in the process of registering for a data analytics course and entering her credit card information when a Gmail notification alerted her to a request for a Zoom meeting with Martin Scorsese. As this was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gladstone was considering a career change due to a dry spell. According to Leonardo DiCaprio, “There was no reading. Marty just instinctively knew Lily was the one. There was a truthfulness in [her] eyes that he saw even over a computer screen. I’ve never known [Scorsese] meet somebody and then immediately afterwards have this gravitational pull and instinct to say, ‘Let’s not wait another minute.'”
- Martin Scorsese said that when he read David Grann’s book “Killers of the Flower Moon,” he knew that he had to make it into a movie. Scorsese spent several hours together with Chief Standing Bear to convince the Osage Nation to help with the filming.
- This will be the seventh collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and will also mark the eleventh collaboration between Scorsese and Robert De Niro if the short film The Audition (2015) is taken into account. This is also the fourth time De Niro and DiCaprio have appeared in a film (short or feature length) together. However, this is the first time that Scorsese, De Niro and DiCaprio will have all collaborated together on a feature film.
- Robert De Niro first recommended Leonardo DiCaprio to Martin Scorsese after working with DiCaprio on This Boy’s Life (1993) and being impressed by his talent. This was rare because at the time De Niro rarely recommended other actors. Scorsese remembered this years later when casting Gangs of New York (2002), and thus began his long collaboration with DiCaprio.
- Costing $200 million, this is the most expensive biographical film ever made, surpassing Martin Scorsese’s own The Irishman (2019), which cost $159 million. It is also the most expensive R-rated film (in the USA – other countries have different ratings systems) ever made, surpassing The Matrix Resurrections (2021), at $190 million.
- Leonardo DiCaprio was paid $30 million, the biggest salary of his career.
- Brendan Fraser’s casting in a supporting role was met with widespread positive support online, due to Fraser’s long history of physical and professional hardships.