KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is the story of a town rocked by a series of murders. The year is 1919. The town of Fairfax, Oklahoma is majorly populated with Native Americans who have become rich after the discovery of oil. William King Hale (Robert De Niro) resides in the same town and is considered a friend by the Native Americans. Unknown to them, he harbours hate for the community and wants to usurp their wealth. His nephew Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns from the war after serving as a cook in the infantry. William asks him to turn taxi driver to earn a livelihood. Mollie (Lily Gladstone) becomes his regular customer. Sparks fly and they fall in love. Mollie suspects that Ernest wants to marry her for her wealth. Her sisters – Minnie (Jillian Dion), Anna (Cara Jade Myers) and Rita (JaNae Collins) – however disagree with her as they remind her that even Ernest’s uncle is quite wealthy. Soon, Ernest and Mollie marry. William brainwashes Ernest that he’ll get a greater share in the wealth if Mollie’s family members die. William manages to kill Minnie through slow poisoning. Mollie’s mother Lizzie (Tantoo Cardinal) dies due to old age. Anna is murdered at the orders of William. The doctors, who perform the post-mortem, hide the bullet. William devises a plan to kill Rita and also to slowly poison Mollie. When more than 15-20 members of their community die mysteriously, the Native Americans decide to fight back and find the root cause. Their attempts prove futile and yet, they continue to get to the bottom of these deaths. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is based on the novel of the same name by David Grann. The story is incredible, and it’ll be shocking for the viewers to know that this incident took place in real life. Eric Roth and Martin Scorsese’s screenplay is engaging but unnecessarily lengthy. The dialogues are normal and sharp in places.
Martin Scorsese’s direction is superlative. He has used his creativity at places and at the same time, given an old-school style treatment. His narrative is unhurried, and, in many ways, it works as audiences neatly adjust to the setting, characters and the goings-on. Some scenes are memorable like William and Ernest’s first meeting after the latter returns, the discovery of Anna’s body, the explosion scene, William assaulting Ernest, William’s breakdown in the jail etc. The scene of the effects of the slow poison on Mollie is gut-wrenching. The last scene of the film is amusing.
On the flipside, the film has a run time of 3 hours 26 minutes. In other words, it is too lengthy. The film also drops in the middle and there’s a possibility that the audience might walk out of boredom and miss the second half, which is much better. Moreover, the treatment is not mainstream. Some aspects can be confusing, and it might be too much for the audience to remember.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is embellished with award-winning performances. Leonardo DiCaprio hits the ball out of the park and deserves another Oscar. Robert De Niro rocks the show yet again, as expected. Lily Gladstone is a surprise, and her career will zoom to another level after this performance. Tantoo Cardinal is decent. Jillian Dion and JaNae Collins get no scope. But Cara Jade Myers leaves a mark. Jesse Plemons (Tom White) lends able support. Brendan Fraser (W S Hamilton) is nice but gets no scope. The other actors who do well are Scott Shepherd (Byron), Tommy Schultz (Blackie), Pete Yorn (Acie Kirby) and Sturgill Simpson (Henry Grammer)
Robbie Robertson’s music is unique and enhances impact. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is quite stunning. Jack Fisk’s production design is reminiscent of the bygone era. Jacqueline West’s costumes are detailed and realistic. Action is minimal but very gory. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing should have been crisper.
On the whole, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is worthy of the Oscars, especially for its performances. But due to the extremely long length and niche appeal, it’ll find it difficult to pull in the audience.