Martin Scorsese’s new film, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” is based on David Grann’s book “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I.,” but before you ask, no, it’s not another gangster movie—the genre with which the director is most associated.
However, this is as violent as it gets, set in America’s Indian country in the 1920s, where a story about love, greed, and heartbreaking betrayal takes center stage. It’s also a true-crime epic that fits neatly into Scorsese’s artistic repertoire. Like all his films, no matter the level of violence he presents, there’s a mix of sorrow and grace. And more importantly, because it’s crafted by such a brilliant storyteller, the film holds significance.
America is an evil place, built on genocide and the blood of African men, women, and children, and this country has never kept its word…not even once, so nothing depicted in this film should surprise anyone.
The story predominantly revolves around the Osage Reservation in northern Oklahoma and dares to shed light on the violence that most of us aren’t aware of. The narrative begins around 1921, but there were, sadly, earlier killings that involved the brutal murder of several dozen Osage. However, since history is often “His-story,” who can say how many more victims there actually were?
Some people were blown up, others were shot to death, while still others died from illnesses, most likely due to poisoning. This is America—I repeat: Nothing should shock you. This particular period of injustice is often referred to as the Osage Reign of Terror, without delving into who actually perpetrated the terror.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is a grand movie about important matters, with all the larger-than-life elements we expect from an epic: thoughtful camerawork, sweeping vistas, and a compelling story. Leading the narrative is war veteran Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), who moves at the speed of the people around him. The fighting and shouting make him feel alive with just a glance. He has come to Oklahoma to work with his uncle, William Hale (a fantastic Robert De Niro), a cattle rancher who lives with his family in a place surrounded by prairie. Known as “the King of the Osage Hills,” Hale immerses him in the Osage way of life, noting that the money is flowing due to oil strikes.