October 27, 2023

It’s Haunting. Killers Of The Flower Moon review

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Anatolii Mishustin in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Rating: filled star filled star filled star filled star empty star

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Lily Gladstone (L) and Robert De Niro (R) in Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon.

Picture by: Apple TV+

Not many filmmakers have a filmography like Martin Scorsese. Over his current 56 year-long career, he has shot thrillers, comedies, biopics, and seemingly exceeded in every venture, cementing his image as one of the most important filmmakers.

Released last week, Killers Of The Flower Moon is no exception, delivering an ultimate American epic of love, betrayal, and the nature of evil.

The film is based on 2017 David Grann’s non-fiction book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, which won acclaim from critics and readers for unveiling this dark, twisted chapter in American history.

Both the book and the film tell the story of the ‘Osage reign of terror’, a line of killings of the Osage Native Americans – members of a tribe, who became rich when oil was discovered on their land in Northern Oklahoma in the 1920s.

This was a case that famously ‘made the FBI’ – it was the first case of the Bureau Of Investigation (BOI), which would in 1935 become the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Osage case was assigned to an ex-Texas Ranger Tom White (played by Jesse Plemons) by J. Edgar Hoover, the famous head of the BOI who made it a highly effective arm of federal law enforcement.

Scorsese, however, scales back from the story of the FBI and thus saves the day. In an interview for Deadline Hollywood, the director explained: “Look, the minute the FBI comes in, and you see a character that would be played by Robert De Niro, Bill Hale, you know he’s a bad guy. There’s no mystery. So, what is it? A police procedural? Who cares!”

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Instead, he decided to focus on the relationships and the life of the Osage, against the backdrop of Fairfax town. In this way, he brings the film’s triad of actors – Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Lily Gladstone – upfront.

All three of them deliver performances which are not only Oscar-worthy but can make it onto the list of their utmost acting achievements. It is Lily Gladstone, however, who shines the most in her role of Mollie Burkhart, the wife of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the heiress of the Osage fortune. Gladstone communicates with subtle expressions, delivering shivering moments of hatred and despair.

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  • Robert De Niro (L) and Leonardo DiCaprio (R) in Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon | Apple TV+

    Picture by: Apple TV+

  • In harmony, all of these elements plunge the viewer into a 206-minute-long meditation on American ambition, the banality of evil, and the essence of greed. Scorsese interrogates to what limits these notions can push an individual.

    Killers Of The Flower Moon is a thriller which excites from the start, with emotional performances from actors who struggle to find humanity in their characters.

    The film differs from what you expect a Scorsese film to be, and its pacing and mélancolique tonality may not be to everyone’s taste. Nonetheless, it leaves you with a sense that there’s a cold-hearted vice inherent in humans, and it feels tragic.

    Written by:

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    Anatolii Mishustin

    Film critic

    Kyiv, Ukraine | Amsterdam, Netherlands

    Hailing from Ukraine, Anatolii was born in 2006 and now resides in Amsterdam while getting his diploma. Moving to the Netherlands was a decision first and foremost motivated by the ongoing war in Ukraine.

    Anatolii keeps his hand on the pulse of modern media and underground culture, that’s what grows his interests and ambitions each day. He joined Harbingers’ Magazine in 2023 to challenge himself in this area to explore cultural journalism, and quickly established himself as the lead film critic for the magazine.

    His work also secured him an invitation to the first edition of the Harbinger Fellow programme with the Oxford School for the Future of Journalism.

    In his free time, he enjoys basketball, watching films, and playing video games.

    Anatolii speaks Ukrainian, Russian, English, and is learning Dutch.

    Edited by:

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    Megan Lee

    Culture Section Editor

    Hong Kong | United Kingdom

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