Published Nov. 6, 2023
BY SARA EYJOLFSDOTTIR
Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” has been described as a masterpiece. In many ways it does live up to the hype with beautiful cinematography, Oscar-worthy performances and a compelling plot based on true events. But with a staggering three-and-a-half-hour runtime, the sheer length detracts heavily from the impact of this tragic story and leaves a somewhat unsatisfying experience.
Based on David Grann’s book of the same name, “Killers of the Flower Moon” centers on the murders of Osage tribe members after their sudden influx of wealth from the discovery of oil reserves on their land and the FBI investigation that followed. The film reaches its astonishing length with a number of extended dialogue scenes and a truckload of information. Setting up characters thoroughly to create an emotional attachment from the audience, this crime epic also ruthlessly ends the screen time of others in scenes lasting sometimes less than a minute. Scorsese chooses to remind his audience of the underlying tragedy present with subtle clues and these quick, shocking clips, contrasting the happier tone present in the beginning with the persistent murder and mayhem lurking underneath.
Incorporating a good amount of gore, “Killers of the Flower Moon” does not shy away from unsettling imagery in any way. The movie’s frequent utilization of silence also works to increase the suspense and impactfulness, while giving you plenty of time to hear your theater mates snacking on their popcorn.
Set in 1920s Oklahoma, the film sheds light on this often forgotten piece of history and faces the history of this country head on. By focusing more on the relationship between Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Molly (Lily Gladstone) than on the FBI investigation that occupied close to half of Grann’s 2017 best-selling book, Scorsese turns the attention of the audience to the injustice endured by the Osage nation rather than a white savior narrative.
Although there is not a single poor performance in this 206-minute film, the concept of aging apparently does not exist. Scorsese regular Robert DeNiro, who plays Ernest’s uncle William “King” Hale, is supposedly playing a 50-ish character in the beginning of the movie. Despite not reflecting this age from the start (no offense), DeNiro, DiCaprio and other actors show no signs of aging as the years go by.
Featuring stunning cinematography throughout, “Killers of the Flower Moon” utilizes technicolor techniques and old-timey square format for a number of scenes to truly transport the audience to the setting of the film and seal the deal on the disconcerting aura felt from start to finish.
For those brave enough for a theater-viewing experience, certainly be prepared for your legs to fall asleep and come stocked with plenty of snacks…or maybe a three-course meal.