Martin Scorsese’s epic film, based on David Grann’s book, is a powerful dramatisation of the Osage murders and worthy of its three hour running time.
It has been a long while since I have seen a film of such high calibre, a film that really gets to the soul of a story and its characters leaving the audience completely absorbed in the world showcased in it.
Based on David Grann’s book, which in turn is based on the true events that occurred involving the Osage Native Americans during the 1920’s, who were brutally murdered to claim their money and land (which had made them rich through the discovery of oil on it). While many of the murders were sadly never solved, this story places focus on three main characters: Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), his uncle William Hale (Robert De Niro) and Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone) as well as her family. It is a story of corruption, betrayal, violence and horrifying murder that is brought strikingly to life in Martin Scorsese’s haunting and powerful film.
Co-written by Scorsese and Eric Roth, this is a film that as well as being about crime, there feels a deeper psychological theme at the heart of it, particularly as Hale manipulates Burkhart to doing his bidding and taking part in many atrocities (although it is of course well documented throughout that Ernest has a love of money and the finer things in life, you never truly expect him to go to the lengths he does to get it), while hearing Mollie’s inner monologues as her family are murdered is heartbreakingly raw. It is a film that captures the many different natures of the characters perfectly – helped of course by the compelling performances from the cast.
While perhaps on hearing that it has three hour and twenty minute running time it might make people baulk but the skill, detail and insight in which Scorsesse has put into this film ensures that the audience’s attention is captured from start to finish, although it does have to be said that the ending feels a little bit rushed and casual in contrast to the rest of the film. As always, Scorsese doesn’t shy away from the brutality and violence show towards the Osage Native Americans, with many moments making you flinch in horror.
However, it is the subtle way in which you can sense things that are changing in Osage County, at the start of the film and the discovery of oil which made the Osage tribe wealthy the white people are catering to their needs (being chauffeurs for example) and it is clearly their land. By the end however, in the background of scenes you can see how this has been changed somewhat. This is a film that urges you to look at the closer details. It is clever, smart and ultimately heartbreaking.
Robert De Niro is on captivating form as William Hale, who on the surface seems kindly and would do anything for the Osage people, but underneath is a cold and calculating personality who would do anything for extra money and then covers his tracks horrifically. The scene in which a supposed friend of his is lying in front of the fire and he says he is worth $25,000 feels particularly chilling in the way in which he delivers this statement.
Equally as compelling to watch is Lily Gladstone as Mollie, whose entire family is essentially destroyed for money and power. She offers such a powerful performance, that she doesn’t even need to speak a word to convey the depth of pain and suffering her character is constantly feeling – it is utterly heartbreaking to witness and deserves accolation for the way in which she delivers such personality. Leonardo DiCaprio offers a nuanced performance as Ernest, consistently finding new layers to the character that highlight just how he got drawn into events that soon spiralled out of his control and leaves you with questions about his true nature.
Overall, this is a high intensity film that brutally highlights just how brazen people can be in order to get what they want. Powerful and heartbreaking, it is a film that deserves the countless accolades that are surely coming its way.
By Emma Clarendon
Killers of the Flower Moon will be released on the 18th October.