Geek Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

The exploration of the human psyche has been the foundation of director Martin Scorsese cinematic repertoire, and while it can be often times masked in tales of crime and the mafia, the Italian auteur’s brand of drama comes from studying greed, guilt and possibly, redemption against the backdrop of violence, corruption and more decay.

His 25th feature, Killers of the Flower Moon embraces these themes wholeheartedly as Scorsese turns journalist David Grann’s nonfiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI into a masterful and intimate film that peers into America’s dark history filled with greed, serial murder and racial injustice. 

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For those unaware of American history, the Osage Native Americans in Osage County were awarded land, only to discover oil and the period in the 1920s saw dozens of Osage Natives get murdered over the rights of the land they were legally owners of. Few were prosecuted for the murders and the few who were are depicted in this tale of greed, anchored by Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), Mollie Brown (Lily Gladstone) and William “King” Hale (Robert De Niro). 

Killers of the Flower Moon

Ernest is an infantry chef who comes to Fairfax to become a cab driver, where he lives with his Uncle King, a powerful local rancher with a longstanding connection and friendship with the Osage community. Mollie Brown is a wealthy Osage woman who, since the death of her father, is taking care of her sick elderly mother Lizzie Q (Tantoo Cardinal) and her sisters Anne (Cara Jade Myers), Minnie (Jillian Dion) and Reta (Janae Collins). 

Ernest is a complex character who, despite his love for Mollie, enacts violence against members of the Osage community out of greed. Just like his uncle, he puts on the front of an ally whilst still holding onto racist ideas and beliefs. His allyship – meaning his genuine love for his wife – is the only redeeming quality, but his actions time and time again cause massive amounts of grief for his unknowing wife. Ernest is neither likeable nor a character you can hate – an interesting line to tow that DiCaprio does so with ease. 

Killers of the Flower Moon

De Niro, a frequent collaborator of Scorsese, is not a presence you can ignore. His King takes on the nickname quite literally, as he becomes an evil authoritarian and uses people as pawns to achieve his own goals – including the people who call his family and friends. King knows no limit when it comes to greed. Regardless of his misdeeds and his evilness, King gets away easily thanks to his privilege as a white man and it’s frustrating to watch, particularly if you’re a non-White person watching Killers of the Flower Moon, because this is a reality all too familiar that has lasted the test of time. 

Out of the three characters, Gladstone’s Mollie is a force to be reckoned with. Her portrayal of Mollie is beautifully haunting, where she’s smart, observant, strong and loyal both to her Osage heritage and to her husband. The epitome of a strong woman, Gladstone perhaps has the least amount of lines compared to DiCaprio and De Niro, but delivers every word and sentence with great and lasting impact. With Mollie in a constant state of fear and grief, Gladstone’s wails and portrayal of a woman who has been wronged time and time again, is one that will ring in your ears even after the movie comes to an end.

Killers of the Flower Moon

But that’s also due to the presence of the soon-to-be 81-year-old director, who delivered classics including 1976’s Taxi Driver, 1990’s Goodfellas, and 2013’s Wolf of Wall Street. While every outing by Scorsese is fairly unique, this three-hour and 26-minute epic never lets go of the evils that permeated society in the US then. 

Scorsese explores these difficult themes of violence and injustice of a marginalised group of people with great sensitivity. Not only do viewers get to feel and see the perspective of an Osage person, Scorsese doesn’t participate in voyeurism when it comes to depicting their deaths. When an Osage person is murdered, there is no room for any sort of interpretation as it is clear these murders are pure acts of greed and violence. These acts are incredibly difficult to watch and they happen ever so often (as they really did in the 1920s), and he keeps focusing on so many, but is able to prevent us from feeling desensitised each time, and when an Osage native is killed, there’s the shock of how it continues to happen. 

Killers of the Flower Moon is definitely directed at White audiences to sit and reflect on the violent history of the land they call home, and is a rather informational piece of media for those living outside of America. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography of the sweeping Osage land and close-ups of the characters’ bit of sweat, hair out of place, and even the various designs of the blankets Osage women wear on the back complement the storytelling and the impressive performance of the cast.

Perhaps, the only complaint would be Killers of the Flower Moon’s extensive runtime, which is both a reflection of the massive tale that Scorsese is trying to adapt, and the reality is it’s over three hours of greed and violence in one seating that prevents you from taking a break. 

Still, Killers of the Flower Moon does not disappoint and fans of Scorsese have more bragging rights for what a brilliant filmmaker he is. The cast’s performance is nomination worthy and the cinematography alone is breathtaking. But what will truly leave with viewers once they exit the theatres is the overwhelming sense of grief and enlightenment – having learnt the truth of the Osage people, knowing that their stories will no longer be forgotten, even if we’ll never know who has benefitted from the violence over 100 years later



Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon, is a masterful and intimate film that peers into America’s dark history filled with greed, serial murder and racial injustice – with a talented cast to back.

  • Story - 9/10
  • Direction - 8/10
  • Characterisation - 9/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 8.5/10