I was hesitant to see the new Martin Scorsese film, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” because its runtime is almost 3.5 hours. I doubted any movie could hold my interest for that long or that I could stay in my seat for that length of time. But my sister insisted I had to see the film, so I did.
I stayed in my seat. And I was interested, from beginning to end.
The story, based on the book of the same title, chronicles a series of murders that took place in the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma as greedy white killers attempted to appropriate the native population’s oil fortune. In other words, another white imperialist bulldozing by the powers that be in the United States.
The movie is villain-centric, focusing on the characters of William King Hale (Robert DeNiro), who is the mastermind of the murders, and his easily-manipulated nephew, Ernest Burkart (Leonardo DiCaprio), who becomes Hale’s puppet in crime.
The movie feels authentic, is visually stunning, and surprisingly well-paced and gripping for a plot that lacks any real suspense because there’s no question where the story is heading.
The most interesting dynamic is between Ernest and his Osage wife, Molly, played perfectly by Lily Gladstone. She pretty much owns any scene she appears in, and the most fascinating scenes are between her and DiCaprio.
Spoiler Alert: Molly is a diabetic and Ernest gives her injections of this new drug insulin. But it’s not really insulin, it’s another drug that is slowly killing her so that Ernest (and Hale) can gain access to her money.
The question is whether Ernest knows he is poisoning his wife, because it’s clear he loves and is devoted to her. The answer is that he knows and he doesn’t know. It’s the duality of human character, how we can be two things at once, controlled by opposing forces—and this contradiction is at the core of the film.
Gladstone is spectacular, I’ve always appreciated DiCaprio (“Revolutionary Road,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), but I’m tired of DeNiro. He seems to always over-act. I miss the old DeNiro days of “Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” and “The Godfather Part II.” Somewhere along the line he jumped the shark.