By Megan Bianco
While some have been arguing Martin Scorsese’s latest historical drama, Killers of the Flower Moon, is a good example of why we should bring back intermissions because of its colossal 205-minute runtime, critics and film fans have also been calling the film one of the most important films in recent years.
Killers of the Flower Moon also stars Scorsese’s two favorite leading men, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.
One thing instantly noticeable about Killers of the Flower Moon is there isn’t much mystery or tension throughout the picture. The direction and narrative are very casual and straightforward.
In fact, the one complaint I’ve seen regarding the film is there isn’t really any suspense. We know from the jump nearly all of the men in the story are despicable and selfish. Our male leads are WWI vet Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), who is a cowardly simpleton, and his powerful, greedy uncle, Bill Hale (De Niro), who encourages Ernest to marry local Native woman Mollie Kile (Lily Gladstone) to inherit the oil money she’s owed.
At the same time as Ernest and Mollie’s courtship and marriage from 1921-1926, multiple women in Mollie’s family are victims of many murders throughout Osage County, Oklahoma.
A suggestion I’ve seen to fix the lack of suspense in Killers is that Mollie should have been the protagonist instead of Ernest. I think this would have been the more traditional route if any other filmmaker had helmed it, especially if the director were a woman and/or Native American.
David Grann’s original 2017 non-fiction book, also called Killers of the Flower Moon, focuses specifically on the FBI’s investigation of the murders, and Scorsese and Co. wisely realized this plot would have been redundant.
Mollie is the one consistently innocent and sympathetic character in the story. There are plenty of little things I would have altered if Killers was a more conventional feature, such as DiCaprio’s distracting caped teeth, Brendan Fraser’s scene chewing, and the out-of-place final scene, to name a few.
But I actually don’t think Scorsese is that committed to making a standard film this late into his career. He wants to send a message with atmosphere and tone.
The incidents in Killers of the Flower Moon are a part of real history and should be remembered and learned from. He’s showing us that, sometimes, just complicity can be as harmful as physical action.
The murders and other crimes exposed in the movie should have never happened. Killers of the Flower Moon is being sold as a real-life love story, but it’s barely that. It’s about families betraying each other for money.
It may not be as crowd-pleasing as Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer or Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, but it’s a deep, serious subject for those who are interested in learning.