Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a disturbing yet necessary story depicting genocide in Osage County and the horrors of greed.


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“Killers of the Flower Moon” General Information

Director Martin Scorsese
Screenplay By Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese
Based On “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann
Date Released (In Theaters, Apple TV Plus) October 20, 2023
Genre(s) Crime

Drama

Historical

Film Length 3 Hours, 25  Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Characters and Cast
Ernest Burkhart Leonardo Dicaprio
Mollie Burkhart Lily Gladstone
William King Hale Robert De Niro

Content Rating Explanation

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is Rated R due to graphic violence, profanity, and drug use. 

Film Summary

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“Killers of the Flower Moon” is one of the most important and painful films to watch in recent history. Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour tragedy is incredibly difficult to see, yet in a time when schools are banning the history of colonization, “Killers of the Flower Moon” conveys that the heinous crimes of those in power have been harming our understanding of our nation and identity for centuries. 

“Killers of the Flower Moon” details the tragic murders of Osage people that took place in Osage County, an indigenous reservation in Oklahoma. After many Osage inherited wealth due to oil being found on their land, a plot to systematically murder them and take their wealth was planned by the people highest in power within Osage County. Imagine sheriffs, doctors, attorneys, pastors, and more, all together in a scheme to murder your family. 

These murders are told primarily from three different viewpoints. We spend the most time with Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo Dicaprio), a World War I veteran who seeks work and a place to live from his uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro). Hale is a respected member of the community and acts as an ally to the Osage people, but he’s secretly scheming to kill them and inherit their wealth and land. Hale does this by using his nephew Ernest to get close to and marry one of the Osage women, Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone).

Mollie’s family is one of the most wealthy. Her mom and three sisters are all independent women who see many people in town as coyotes and snakes—everyone, that is, except the white men who claim they love the Kyle sisters. Mollie is apprehensive of Ernest’s flirtatious nature, but Ernest is persistent in his attempts to woo Mollie. Ernest is a simple man but also a greedy man, confused by his own attraction to Mollie and his attraction to power. As Mollie and Ernest grow closer, Mollie’s friends and family start mysteriously dying, and no one is investigating the crimes. As the dead bodies grow, Mollie seeks more and more refuge in the man and family responsible for these murders. 

What makes “Killers of the Flower Moon” so exhausting and heartbreaking is the attention to detail in these crimes. We see the scheming, the deals, the lies, and the gruesome murders unfold. One might understandably ask themselves, “Why? What’s the point of showing or making a movie about these horrors?” It seems everyone involved in making this film was committed to shedding light on a national tragedy that goes ignored in history books. “Killers of the Flower Moon” is supposed to anger you, make your heart break, and make you determined to never let this happen again. 

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Other Noteworthy Information

  1. “Killers of the Flower Moon” has been in development for six years. The original script and book focused on the FBI investigations into the murders. After meeting with living Osage members, Scorsese and Eric Roth wrote a new script that partially tells the story from Mollie’s viewpoint. 

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Ernest Burkhart

Ernest is a veteran with a simple mindset and an addiction to gambling and money. While he tries to scheme for himself, he’s often better as a tool or lapdog for his Uncle William Hale’s larger schemes. Ernest has no moral problem with violence or stealing, but he’s hesitant to hurt his wife, Molly, a member of the Osage Tribe who he initially married for money. 

  • The actor is also known for their role in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” their role in “Inception,” and their role in “Titanic.”

Mollie Burkhart

An Osage who witnessed the slow dwindling of her friends and family. Mollie is very perceptive and suspects Ernest only wants to marry her for her money, but Ernest commits himself to taking care of Mollie and slowly wins her over. 

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Fancy Dance,” their role in “Certain Women,” and their role in “First Cow.”

William King Hale

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Robert De Niro as William King Hale in “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 2023)

Hale may seem like a kind and gentle elderly man, but he holds the political, legal, and financial power of Osage County and wants to take even more away from the indigenous people. Hale is smart enough to manipulate other men to do his bidding and still appear as an ally to all.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Raging Bull,” their role in “Goodfellas,” and their role in “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Review

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

Notable Performances or Moments

Lily Gladstone Portraying Mollie Burkhart’s Endless Grief

There are many times in “Killers of the Flower Moon” where you crumble and cry for what Mollie Burkhart has to endure. Just when you think her grief reaches its unimaginable low, more grief soon follows. Lily Gladstone sustains the burden of paranoia and tragedy to the point of delirium. The film could have used even more of Mollie’s perspective, as Gladstone demonstrates Mollie’s humanity and strength as an indigenous woman wary of the changing society around her. 

Highlights

The Painstaking Detail to Accuracy

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“Killers of the Flower Moon” takes time and care to demonstrate Osage culture and the loss of that culture. The costume details, the language, and the customs are on full display in the first hour of the film. But these details soon give way to the horrid accounts and details of the murders that follow, with the last third of the film dedicated to the FBI investigation into these murders. The three hours are precise, damning, and all necessary to tell the story. 

A Damning Portrayal of Greed and Violence

Ultimately, “Killers of the Flower Moon” condemns capitalism’s erasure of culture and embrace of our aggressive greed. This may sound like a bunch of buzzwords or an uninformed high school essay, but to analyze Hale is to analyze a man with already significant wealth and social influence… wanting more. This is a pattern we see repeatedly today in our government and business leaders: they retain power and demand more to the detriment of the people and environment surrounding them. “Killers of the Flower Moon” demonstrates what this greed looks like a century ago as Hale schemes to murder, and the white townspeople happily oblige because they will get their own wealth in the process. The film shows that historically, our morals were subordinate to the money we could make. 

On The Fence

Lack of Indigenous Viewpoints

I can’t possibly fully comprehend what watching this movie is like for someone indigenous. I don’t see why someone indigenous would even want to see a film showcasing the murder of indigenous people. While Scorsese and his team have valued and welcomed the input of living Osage members, the film and its story are still inherently showing the evils and violence committed against Osage County. While Lily Gladstone’s Mollie narrates and shares in the story’s telling, one can’t help but imagine what an indigenous filmmaker would have made telling the same story. 

Who Is This For?

People who may want to learn a side of history not taught in history books, fans of mature dramas, and cinephiles who enjoy Martin Scorsese will like “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Oppenheimer
  2. The Wolf of Wall Street
  3. Reservation Dogs

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

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Killers of the Flower Moon – Review and Summary
Overall
What makes “Killers of the Flower Moon” so exhausting and heartbreaking is the attention to detail in these crimes. This film is supposed to anger you, make your heart break, and make you determined to never let this happen again. 
Highlights
Lily Gladstone Portraying Mollie Burkhart’s Endless Grief
The Painstaking Detail to Accuracy
A Damning Portrayal of Greed and Violence
Disputable
Lack of Indigenous Viewpoints
85

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