Killers of the Flower Moon is the story of a real tragedy. It’s the story of a war for one man’s soul, the war for a people’s soul, and the suffering endured by Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone) wife of Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), as he pulls himself and those around him into a spiraling web of betrayal, murder, and greed.
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Release Date: 10/20/2023
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Where to Watch: In theaters
DiCaprio’s role in this film is perhaps more unflattering than any in his storied career, but there is no doubt he will receive Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Ernest, a man who falls in with his crime lord uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro) after returning from WWI. Once on his uncle’s estate in Osage County, Oklahoma, his spineless, morally-corrupt nature becomes clear as he is manipulated into marrying into the Kyle family in order to have a claim their wealth.
While any standard Hollywood director may have opted to tell this story as a mystery, unraveling the web of murders and intrigue from an outside perspective, veteran Scorsese chooses instead to make Ernest the central character of the film, allowing us to watch his descent from an intimate vantage point, with no mystery as to where the responsibility for the string of murders lies. In usual Scorsese fashion, brutal violence is employed in an understated, almost mundane manner, but in this film that also extends to the perspective of the central characters, a deranged family who feel no remorse and don’t blink twice at the murder of men, women, or children as means to an end.
While she may not be the central character, the soul of the film is undoubtedly held by Mollie Burkhart, whose unfashionable love and marriage to an outsider is portrayed with heart-breaking candor and unflinching suffering. While real-life Ernest Burkhart undoubtedly held no feelings for his Native American wife, in this dramatic adaptation we see an early, fumbling courtship between fictionalized versions of Ernest and Mollie that allow us to invest in their relationship, bringing the feelings each has for the other to the fore as the driving question behind the film. Because if their love can be redeemed, then perhaps Ernest’s soul can be redeemed as well?
But to say more would spoil the emotional ride of this bold, three-hour historical biopic that releases amidst the safe, sanitized history offered by other large studios, bringing a candid perspective that refuses to sugarcoat the racism and bigotry of the past.
About our Admit One Author
Isaac Frankel is a freelance writer and content creator specializing in reviews and analysis of cinema, interactive media, and mythological storytelling. He was raised in Prescott, AZ, wrote his first non-fiction book in 2013 after graduating from Tribeca Flashpoint College with a degree in Game & Interactive Media Design and currently produces content for the YouTube channel: Off Screen.
More of his work and current projects can be found at www.isaacafrankel.com