Informative and entertaining watch on the status of the Osage tribe
Despite being screened out of competition at Cannes Film Festival 2023, Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon caused quite a buzz among fans, peers, press and locals. Based on true events where Native Americans of the Osage tribe were systematically targeted in the 1920s for their wealth, Killers of the Flower Moon by Apple TV+ has been noteworthy for bringing more awareness to the troubles of the indigenous communities.
After the Great War, Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio), a chef in the army moves to Fairfax where his uncle, King Bill Hales (Robert De Niro) is an influential man. But what makes this city different is that it is filled with rich and affluent Osages who struck black gold. Desperate to save themselves during a drought, they drilled downwards only to find that their reservation is set up on oil-filled land. Over the years, they become rich, on par with the European settlers, commanding respect amongst all.
But this makes them the target of greedy White men who go to extreme lengths to get the Osages’ headrights. Caught in the crossfire is the charming and headstrong Mollie (Lily Gladstone) whose downfall is her trusting nature. She falls in love with Ernest and as the two start a family together, mysterious murders including that of her sisters have the Osage tribe worried. They enlist the help of their beneficiary, King Hale and Ernest who have provided constant support in these trying times but for some reason there is no progress in the investigation. Furthermore, it doesn’t bode well for Mollie as all of her family’s assets following the deaths of her sisters and mother, now belong to her and in turn will go to Ernest if something were to happen to her.
While it is obvious from the first scene, it is worth noting down that the visuals of the film embrace the Native American culture. And it doesn’t exoticize it (unlike in many Western and cowboy films), it falls in line with the story which does happen to be on the Natives. It also breaks several stereotypes as we get graceful, vibrant and fun elements reminding people that the Natives are more than their story of oppression. They are like all human beings, relatable, cheerful, sad, plagued by their fears and joy. We get cheerful Western music with Native influence as Killers of the Flower Moon does its best to show the Osages in all their authenticity. Haunting percussion punctuates the history of this Native tribe and also builds the suspense. Sure, there are a few exaggerations that can be forgiven in the spirit of creative freedom and good representation of a Native story in an otherwise homogenous movie industry.
Despite being a period drama with a thrilling plot, Killers of the Flower Moon has the typical Martin Scorsese formula — use of comedy and satire which makes sure that viewers do not get too overwhelmed with his otherwise heavy plots. With Leonardo DiCaprio as the naive and dense Ernest and Robert De Niro being the calculative Hale who pretends to be a magnaminous man, it leads to hijinks and chaos that leaves viewers in stitches, a soothing balm to the otherwise gory murders.
However, the second act suddenly slows down as all the interesting characters are either gone or their screen time is cut short. De Niro and DiCaprio are always a delight to watch, but the script starts flubbing as it gets too long. And sure, Scorcese has made some iconic women-centric films like Age of Innocence and New York, New York, but when it is not gender-based as seen in Killers of the Flower Moon, he forgets about his female characters. Poor Mollie goes from an intriguing, independent character to an accessory, a plot device for Ernest’s character growth.
It is still satisfying to see the bad guys get what’s coming to them in the end. It is sort of predictable but the roundabout way in which everything is revealed is fun and thankfully the story picks up once again as the conspiracy starts unravelling bringing back the attention of the viewers. But while being an informative and entertaining watch, Killers of the Flower Moon does come off a little as self indulgent. Maybe Scorcese’s going through a phase where he just wants to make movies for himself rather than for an audience.
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Verdict - 8/10