Killers of the Flower Moon is a horrifying portrayal of a historically important event
The movie starts with calling the Osage people "The chosen people of chance". After the discovery of oil in Oklahoma, the Osages became rich pretty quickly thanks to the oil money. And just like a moth to a flame, the oil caused white Americans from all across the country to settle in the Osage nation. The movie, set in 1920s Oklahoma, tells the story of the series of murders that took place in the Osage nation. But in its 3 hours and 26 minutes runtime, beneath its murders and the investigation, Killers of the Flower Moon tells a story of greed on which lies the birth of the American nation.
The story starts with Ernest Burkhart, played by Leonardo Di Caprio, reaching Oklahoma to his uncle William Hale, played by Robert De Niro, in search of livelihood after the Great War. Ernest starts as a cabdriver and drives an Osage native Mollie Kyle, played by Lily Gladstone, around town.
As the story progresses, the other family members of Lily's family, including her sisters, keep getting murdered along with other Indians all around the Osage nation.
Killers of the Flower Moon isn't a typical whodunit murder mystery. The who, why, and how of the murders are pretty evident. Martin Scorsese takes the entirety of the first hour to get into the story, introduce the audience to the Osage culture, and take you right into the Osage land. This helps the audience truly comprehend the gravity of the tragedy in the third act of the film. There is no great big reveal in the end or any gut-wrenching sequence that scars you, especially if you've read the book. But that's where the Scorsese magic comes in. The violence isn't presented as a shock but rather is normalised throughout the film because that's how frequent and insignificant the violence upon the Osage people was to the outsiders living there.
An exceptional performance from Leonardo Di Caprio was expected and he delivered. He portrays a greedy, gullible, and easily manipulated Ernest Burkhart with absolute honesty and looks almost unrecognisable in the film. De Niro's brilliance in portraying the vile, vicious, and double-faced William Hale lies in the fact that Hale never believes that he's the bad person in this story. He never apologises, never accepts the charges, and keeps believing that he's still a friend to the Osage, the very people he murdered.
The movie could've been chopped down to under three hours but I'm glad he didn't. The Osage people, their land and the tragedy stay with you even after the movie ends thanks to that extra space Scorsese took in the screenplay. In that one frame shown in the teaser, where the group of rich white people looks at the camera, you realise it isn't Hale or Burkhart who're the villains in this story. And Scorsese asks the audience through that one frame – can you find the wolf in this picture?
Hasib Ur Rashid Ifti is a student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.