‘Killers of The Flower Moon’ – Worth the Wait

‘Hare Staring at the Moon’ (July 2016) by Neil Randall 

Written by Ruairidh Colquhoun

There are very few things that manage to be thoroughly enjoyable whilst taking an extraordinarily long time, I mean, it is all subjective, but I’m sure we can agree on some things: cooking a large meal, taking a long car journey to a beloved destination, waiting nearly an hour for the food you’ve ordered to arrive, and of course, watching a Martin Scorsese film. You’d think that having a famous film career spanning more than 50 years would garner some not-so-famous films, however, that does not seem to be the case.

Scorsese has brought us an innate masterpiece each decade since he started his career in the mid-60s, with the 2000s being perhaps his most efficient decade bringing us Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006) and Shutter Island (2010), which are all examples of incredible films. Well, ladies and gentlemen, he’s only gone and done it again, his newest film Killers of The Flower Moon does not disappoint. At 3 hours and 47 minutes long, you’re in for a long night if you’re watching it at the cinema, but it is definitely the best way to view the film.

Killers of The Flower Moon is Scorsese’s longest project since his drama/documentary ‘My Voyage to Italy’ (1999) which is just over 4 hours long. His ability to be unapologetically ‘Scorsese’, if you like, is my favourite aspect of him as a director. Haters out there (if there are any) might say that all of Scorsese’s films are the same for “they’re all the same gangster movies with lots of violence and they never change”. And I’m sorry, but what’s your point? The fact of the matter is that while gangster films do make up a significant part of Martin Scorsese’s filmography, they are all excellent films and bring a different edge to each story. No two are the same, which is why the naysayers are wrong.

Now, onto the film: Killers of The Flower Moon reveals a whole new side to Scorsese’s unapologetic Scorseseness, it’s got all of his classic tropes down to the actors, screenplay and cinematography, but with a very different subject topic: violence, regarding oil and wealth, towards a Midwestern American tribe in 1920’s Oklahoma. What I love about the film is that it’s very clear to me that Scorsese is genuinely very interested in the film’s context. You’d have to look very hard to find a film in the last 20 years that displays the director/writer’s genuine interest in its subject matter, whilst also being a mainstream film. Killers of The Flower Moon retells the story of ‘The Reign of Terror’, a series of 60 murders committed against the Osage Nation, a federally recognised government, and a Native American tribe. These murders were fuelled by greed once it was discovered that the Osage community owned the mineral rights to the oil that was beneath their land.

The film sets up an interesting prospect: a role reversal if you will, where white people serve the Osage people. From 1775 to 1865 and beyond, Americans coveted land and property belonging to various Native tribes, killing chiefs, civilians, and soldiers in the process. In this film, however, we see a period of time that has never been shown before in mainstream media: a time of vast wealth and power in a Native American community, this wealth and power, however, comes at a price, which is what the core of the film is essentially about. Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, who both have permanent seats at the Scorsese table it seems, deliver fabulous performances as two very different characters to what they’re used to. DiCaprio plays a slow yet cunning veteran with an unforgettable withered face. Could it be his best performance yet? I think so. Now, this may be controversial, but I am of the opinion that most of the roles DiCaprio plays, are pretty much just Leo playing Leo in the sense that there’s not much depth to his characters that I can see. ‘Ernest Burkhart’ however is someone that I can’t see Leo shine through at all, DiCaprio frames the picture of being torn between money and family perfectly, which is highly prevalent in the film. De Niro, playing Ernest’s uncle William Hale, reminds me of that one scary neighbour that would never come out of their house, but you knew some illegal happenings were going on there anyway. De Niro’s performance is just as creative and intuitive as DiCaprio’s and is definitely one of my favourite performances from him.

The star of the show however is Lily Gladstone who plays Ernest Burkhart’s wife, Molly Kyle, and her performance is nothing short of outstanding. This film showcases many powerful female performances, but Gladstone’s acting stands out as the most spectacular. Apart from playing a sick grieving mother most of the film, which she does effortlessly, she also portrays a playful and caring person who is blissfully unaware that her husband is playing a part in the brutal murders of her family and the wider community. I have never seen grief personified in such a way as hers and if you are susceptible to crying during a film like I am, you’re in for a rollercoaster of emotions, I’m talking crying, laughing, gasping…the whole nine yards.

‘Three hares in a barley field under the Moon’ (November 2016) by Neil Randall 

According to figures from Reclaiming Native Truth, the representation of Native American characters and stories in mainstream media has ranged from 0% to 0.4% in the last three years. ‘Killers of The Flower Moon’ was a story that needed to be told, a story of love, betrayal, family, greed, religion, and race. The fact that Killers is the first mainstream Hollywood film that tells a Native American story in almost 35 years is alarming. After all, representation is revolution.

Written by Ruairidh Colquhoun, Edited by Eleanor Partington, Artwork by Neil Randall, Photography by Ruairidh Colquhoun, Published by Paige Tamasi.