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The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Scorsese tells haunting true story with ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

Lily Gladstone gives a standout performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

This past weekend, legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese released his new film “Killers of the Flower Moon” (2023). The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone and Jesse Plemons.

The movie begins in the early 1920s and tells the true story of the Osage Native American tribe of Osage County, Oklahoma as they are systemically murdered after oil is found on their land and the FBI decides to investigate.

It is based on the 2017 book of the same name by David Grann. The film explores the effects the murders have on the Osage community, especially Lily Gladstone’s character, Mollie Burkhart, wife of DiCaprio’s character Ernest Burkhart. De Niro portrays Ernest’s uncle William Hale, a manipulative and deceiving man who has darker intentions than he lets on.

There are very few filmmakers today who are as experienced as Scorsese, and “Killers of the Flower Moon” is evidence of this. Scorsese takes all his experiences working on larger-scale films such as “Gangs of New York” (2002) and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) and combines them with his more personal style of filmmaking seen in films such as “Silence” (2016) and “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), creating a modern-day masterpiece that sits near the top of his filmography.

As one would expect from a Scorsese film, every actor and actress in the movie, whether in a large or small role, is at the top of their game. DiCaprio and De Niro are perfect as always. DiCaprio plays a very morally complex character — one with multiple allegiances to both sides of the conflict, making for a difficult character to root for. However, the breakout star of the film is far and away Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart. She is the soul of the film, the viewer’s closest connection to the Osage community and our window into these horrible atrocities that took place there.

The film’s runtime is a whopping three hours and 26 minutes, but the filmmaking techniques allow it to fly by. Editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s long-time collaborator, keeps the film moving at a fast pace, going from one scene to another with ease. Furthermore, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and composer Robbie Robertson, who sadly passed away last summer, both improved the film. Prieto’s gorgeous, striking cinematography along with Robertson’s empowering score make “Killers of the Flower Moon” the audio and visual feast it is.

Lastly, there is a minor controversy surrounding the film. At the Los Angeles premiere of the film on Oct. 16, Osage language consultant Christopher Cote spoke in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on his strong feelings about the film. He spoke about how he wished the film was more from the perspective of Mollie and her family but also understands how filmmaker Martin Scorsese is not fully capable of doing this. Cote believes the story could’ve been more effective if an Osage was at the helm, but believes that as it stands, the film focuses too much attention on Ernest and making him a relatable character. After hearing Cote’s comments, I find myself agreeing with him and I am interested to know what this film could’ve been if it had this different directorial perspective. This situation also shed greater light on the lack of Native American representation within the film industry.

Overall, Martin Scorsese’s 2023 Western crime epic “Killers of the Flower Moon” is arguably the best film of the year and is one that should be watched by everyone to truly understand the horrible events that took place in Osage County. The ending will stick with you for weeks to come.

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About the Contributor
Sam Cohen
Sam Cohen, Movie Columnist
Sam Cohen (he/him/his) is a junior majoring in Film and Media Studies. He won the Special Grand Jury Prize for his Comedy short film “The Gum Run” at the 2019 Montclair Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers Competition. Sam writes weekly reviews of recent TV Shows and Movies while occasionally reviewing older, forgotten classics. When not reviewing, discussing, or watching films, Sam is also a part of many extracurriculars on campus, including being a co-captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team, a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity, and an officer of the Film Society.

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  • J

    JoeOct 28, 2023 at 1:28 am

    Was too long. We got the idea and the point. It would have been more profound and moving if it hadn’t required so much perseverance to finish the final scenes.