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Killers of the Flower Moon
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Martin Scorsese
scr Eric Roth, Martin Scorsese
prd Dan Friedkin, Daniel Lupi, Martin Scorsese, Bradley Thomas
with Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion, Scott Shepherd, Jason Isbell
release US/UK 20.Oct.23
23/US Paramount 3h26
CANNES FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Martin Scorsese recounts a true story with a remarkable sense of scale, keeping events intimate while exploring larger issues and ramifications. It's a harrowing history lesson, highlighting the systemic injustice that peppers pretty much everything that happened once Europeans claimed North America as their own. Expertly made on every level, the film never boils over, maintaining a riveting simmer of menace so urgent that we don't want to blink.
In 1920s Oklahoma, the Osage nation is wealthy due to the discovery of oil on their land. But when they are murdered, police do nothing. Community leader and cattle rancher Bill Hale (De Niro) encourages his nephew Ernest (DiCaprio) to marry bright Osage landowner Mollie (Gladstone), who sees Ernest as gullible but kind. Then Mollie's sisters begin to die, and Ernest becomes enmeshed in the conspiracy, while Mollie travels to Washington to ask the government to step in. They send Agent White (Plemons) to investigate these killings, but the truth won't be easy to untangle.
Scenes are full of colourfully detailed people, which Scorsese and expert editor Thelma Schoonmaker weave into a forceful narrative that pulses to Robbie Robertson's rhythmic score. Layers of meaning provide provocative plot and character textures that add dark resonance. Period-style clips and photographs are cleverly deployed, plus a radio theatre epilog that carries an emotional kick. And while Mollie is the heart and soul of the film, Ernest's messy moral journey drives the themes home.
DiCaprio is remarkably nuanced as a dim but, yes, earnest guy battling within himself to do the right thing. He creates superbly offbeat chemistry with the excellent Gladstone, whose Mollie radiates knowing intelligence and clear-eyed understanding. De Niro deploys his smooth charisma to skilfully obscure Bill's monstrous motives. And smaller roles for Lithgow and especially Fraser offer scene-stealing. Meanwhile, a terrific Native American cast adds earthy realism in scenes that provide necessary perspective.
Made with an astonishing attention to detail, this historical epic is designed to get the audience's stomachs churning. Even if these people live in a social landscape we can barely comprehend, the moral questions are unnervingly easy to identify with. The quest for power and money depicted isn't merely down to greed; it's a mixture of entitlement, legacy and opportunism. And it's strikingly clear what's right and wrong, even as the film makes us question what we might do in this context. Regardless of who gets the money, the winners are the ones who have kindness, compassion and community.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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