Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Running Time: 206 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser, Cara Jade Myers, Janae Collins, Jillian Dion, Jason Isbell, William Belleau, Louis Cancelmi, Scott Shepherd

At 81 years old and with a filmography of 26 feature films, Martin Scorsese has an impressive career that keeps going strong despite some questioning how many more films he will make. While other creatives may worry about their quality diminishing with age, this adaptation of David Grann's 2017 book is one of Scorsese's best works in a while.

At the turn of the 20th century, oil discovered on the grounds of an Oklahoma reservation brings a fortune to the Osage Nation. They become some of the world's richest people overnight, with such wealth attracting white interlopers planning to steal the Osage money - even resorting to murder. In the middle of these brutal murders is Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), whose romance with Osage member Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone) is at odds with orders from his money-hungry uncle, William Hale (Robert De Niro).

A grim picture of this landscape is painted by Scorsese and writer Eric Roth, examining America's relationship with Indigenous people in blistering fashion. It is shown how the Osage people are treated like a commodity by the white man, particularly when the latter brag about their full-blooded partners in a manner similar to swapping specifications of brand-new cars. As the Osage people are drained of their wealth and resources, the vampires disguise their underhanded backstabbing with niceties while knowing that the reservation has no faith in the justice system. There is a belief that someone is more likely to be convicted for kicking a dog than murdering a Native American, which all makes for a compelling and tragic work.

This marks the first film where Scorsese works with both of his regular collaborators, and the pair deliver exceptionally in their differing roles. Playing the dimwitted bumpkin with no moral spine, DiCaprio tremendously captures this easily led man with a sinister underbelly. He may be regularly manipulated, yet it is abundantly clear that he is not innocent. Despite loving his family, he repeatedly says how he loves money, and his actions make it clear which one takes priority.

Guiding Ernest is William King Hale, a popular presence whose status as a friendly benefactor disguises his true nature. De Niro impressively plays this wolf in sheep's clothing whose bloodthirsty desire for wealth lurks beneath his smiling attitude. Yet standing tall above the director's regular collaborators is an exceptional performance from Lily Gladstone, capturing the weariness of Molly as the community around her dies in great numbers. The pain and suffering is startlingly evident on the character's face as she feels the coyotes circling around her as they grow more greedy.

Contrasting Rodrigo Prieto's gorgeous cinematography is a blunt use of violence, showcasing the horrors where a lesser director would have glamourized these scenes. Aiding the sequences is an underlying dread conveyed through the thumping score, posthumously delivered by Robbie Robertson. This makes up a stunningly crafted work which ensures the lengthy runtime swiftly passes by, helped by a sense that every scene is integral.

Most phenomenal is how the tale closes, uniquely highlighting how a true horror story has been trivialized as well as the infuriating miscarriages of justice. Scorsese delivers another engrossing tale of the crimes men do and how the justice system responds to their actions, although one wishes the focus was more on the Osage people instead. Despite this, the film shines an integral light on this horrendously overlooked crime to paint a portrait of American greed, all consuming as the gluttonous take from the people to line their own pockets.

Killers of the Flower Moon is available in cinemas now, and will be available on Apple TV+ at a later date.