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Killers of the Flower Moon

9th November 2023

Words: Shane Ramdhany

Scorsese’s true crime epic excels at its depiction of a culture submerged within its own limitations in the context of a simultaneously apathetic and oppressive government.  The perception of the inferiority of Native American culture during this period results in an egregious oversight of a multiple murder conspiracy, which Scorsese has painstakingly brought to light in his iteration of the famous novel of the same name.  

While the film maintains an approximate 3 ½ hour runtime, it utilises much of this time to great effect.  It manages to avoid the conundrum of a bloated narrative to fill this lengthy space and instead hones in on many of the variables that are attributed to the crimes being committed.  This includes the aforementioned dismissive nature of the government and larger community, the role of many of the locals close to the victims and the central roles depicted by DiCaprio and Gladstone.  As the film’s narrative presses on, we observe its evolution from a somewhat superficial murder investigation to exploration of cultural prejudice that inhibit the call for justice demanded by the Osage Nation.  As a result, few scenes feel extraneous because they most often support the themes explored in this story and serve to enrich both its characters and its setting.

As the central ideas come into focus, it becomes clear that the investigation depicted on screen is less about an individual’s atrocity than it is about a system that promotes oppressive ideals. While there have been a number of cinematic narratives focused on what is essentially genocide committed against Native Americans, Killers of the Flower Moon manages to bring a unique perspective on the subtle, but no less horrifying, practices in this tale that promote the same ideology of cultural and racial superiority.  

Both DiCaprio and Gladstone provide raw and relentless performances as they effortlessly embody the film’s central characters, Earnest and Mollie.  These performances most effectively emphasise the specific moments where cultural differences lead to inevitable conflict.  This results in character driven sequences that serve as microcosms for its broader themes.  The performances of the film’s supporting cast, which includes Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons, all maintain a collective standard that further enhances both the narrative and its lead roles.  De Niro’s natural ability to embody the malevolent presence of Bill Hale parallels that of Plemons’s provocative FBI investigator yielding a complex tale that mostly lands its objectives.

Killers of the Flower Moon is a true crime tale that posits many important themes that extend beyond its apparent crimes.  These themes weave a narrative that succeeds with providing a fresh perspective on the transgressions embedded in Native American history and effectively emphasise the significance of our awareness on this subject.  The true revelation is not the individual that committed the crimes but the broader systemic values that allowed them to happen.

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