KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Scott Shepherd, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion, William Belleau, Louis Cancelmi, Tommy Schultz, Ty Mitchell, Brendan Fraser, and John Lithgow
Director: Martin Scorsese
Coming into 2023, I genuinely expected Killers of the Flower Moon to be in competition for my favorite movie of the year. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Admittedly, it features all the things you’d expect from those involved: great cinematography, powerhouse performances, strong messaging, and interesting directorial flourishes. Sadly, though, at 3.5 hours, it unsurprisingly has massive pacing issues. Some parts are extremely rushed while others are incredibly sluggish, not to mention some questionable editing that makes it hard to establish the story’s timeline. It’s good, but far from great; definitely not the Martin Scorsese masterpiece I heard about coming out of Cannes.
I will never advocate for films to be longer than three hours; if the story calls for it, make it a miniseries. However, as that trend continues, Martin Scorsese gives a solid effort justifying the runtime of Killers of the Flower Moon. This multi-year saga gets stronger as the story unfolds, with Scorsese diving into themes of greed, manipulation, and the disregard for indigenous human life. Yes, it features fantastic performances from both Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, but this film succeeds largely on the work of Scorsese and his ability to keep a solid pace while keeping things thoroughly engaging.
It's a gift to be living in a time when Martin Scorsese is still making masterworks like this. Killers of the Flower Moon may feature familiar beats from Scorsese’s past films blended with his recent trend of mature somberness, but it makes for an affecting viewing experience. The tragedy on display is made exhilarating thanks to Scorsese's energetic direction, making the three-and-a-half-hour runtime breeze by. Outstanding performances from Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro, and a career-best Leonardo DiCaprio mixed with a haunting story of greed, white supremacy, and American history, you have another win for the legendary filmmaker.
Killers of the Flower Moon is like a non-stop ticking time bomb that’s continuously exploding, with wave after wave of death and the coldness of those who committed the atrocities against the Osage people. Director Martin Scorsese serves the story up on a silver platter, presenting the darkness without judgment or emotion. Robert De Niro is at his best, as is Leonardo DiCaprio in an unglorified never-really-seen-from-him-before type role; however, the heart is Lily Gladstone, whose constant pain, despair, and anguish never extinguish the strength behind her eyes. Her quietly powerful presence encapsulates this demanding yet important three-and-a-half-hour epic.
While Killers of the Flower Moon is a beautifully crafted crime epic that may be director Martin Scorsese’s most daring effort yet, I couldn't help but yearn for more insight into the Osage. At more than three hours, it needed a more balanced structure to generate a stronger story. Its depiction of power and greed overshadows the real story here, and it seems like Scorsese cared more about showing how these crimes were committed instead of the effects they had on the Osage. Don’t get me wrong, the film has many positive things going for it, but the overall story left me a wee bit underwhelmed.
Killers of the Flower Moon is a mesmerising film that mediates upon the greed, violence, and oppression that embodies American history. Although the runtime seems daunting, it's incredibly well-paced and engaging, spurred on by the tense, rhythmic score. I feel that its length is justified since it forced me to ruminate on the tragic stories of grief experienced by the Osage people and the senseless atrocities committed against them, whilst savouring stunning shots of nature, joy, and heartbreak. All the performances are outstanding, but Lily Gladstone outshines everyone, which is an amazing achievement considering the heavyweight cast.
Killers of the Flower Moon features two pairings of heavy hitters: director Martin Scorsese and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto join forces to bring beautiful, picturesque gravitas to the outrageous Osage Murders, while acting titans Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone perfectly capture their characters’ complicated, emotional, and dichotomous nature. It’s far from perfect, though…perhaps Scorsese’s passion for doing this striking story justice prevented the necessary editing that would’ve alleviated its tortuous length, confusing timeline, and inconsistent pacing. In the end, I’m glad I endured this intense chronicle at least once, even if logging a second viewing is unlikely.
Martin Scorsese will already go down as one of the greatest directors of all time, but, sadly, he is far from his best here. Killers of the Flower Moon showcases remarkable performances from the ever-legendary Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio amongst a stellar ensemble cast, and while the plot is grim and weighty, it is far too long and a little dull in parts. It lacks the tension Scorsese usually achieves so well. There is a great film in there somewhere, and it will likely make a lot of noise come awards season, but it certainly feels more suited to streaming.
This film was reviewed by Quentin as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Zurich Film Festival.