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Movies & TV

11th Oct 2023

REVIEW: Killers of the Flower Moon should get De Niro his first Oscar in over 40 years

Rory Cashin

Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon sees Martin Scorsese bringing together Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro for an epic true crime story.

There has been a lot of talk around Killers Of The Flower Moon since it kicked off its festival run a few weeks back, beginning its long, inevitable run towards some form of Oscar glory.

Some are calling it the best movie of the year; it isn’t, that is still either Past Lives or Across The Spider-Verse so far. Some are saying it is Martin Scorsese’s best movie in decades; it isn’t, as it doesn’t reach the heights of The Departed or The Wolf of Wall Street. Others are calling it Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performance ever; it isn’t, that title still belongs to either Once Upon A Time In Hollywood or Django Unchained. Then there are those who are calling this the best role that Robert De Niro has tackled in a long, long time… and on that point, we very much agree.

De Niro imbues his character with a the energy of a sociopathic python, often barely moving, observing everything with unblinking eyes and an inscrutable expression, with sudden movements reserved for tiny moments of anger, to reinforce his position of power. It truly is a masterclass in unshowy magnetism and he deserves all of the awards attention he gets, including what could be his first Oscar win since 1981.

Killers of the Flower Moon is based on a shocking, unbelievable true story

Telling the true story of the series of murders of very wealthy Osage people that took place in Oklahoma in the early 1920s, the plot focuses on Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his relationship with Mollie (Lily Gladstone), a daughter in a family of oil-rich Native Americans. As they get closer, more and more of Mollie’s family are murdered without investigation, or drop dead from some unnamed disease.

This relationship is overseen by his uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro), who is seen as a kindly advisor by the entire town, but who is behind-the-scenes puppeteering everyone in his orbit to make sure as many avenues of income as possible are heading his way. This includee planning out the systematic murdering of the Osage bloodlines, dwindling their family tree to just a few branches, most of which are then married to the white men in his own family.

It is exactly the kind of bonkers, overarching evil that if this were a fictional movie, would feel way too out there to be believable. The events of the movie parallel and even mention the 1921 Tulsa massacre, another point in history filled with so much evil and hate that it is almost beyond comprehension, and warrant essentially the birthing of the FBI.

However, this eventual investigation by the federal government doesn’t kick off until over two hours into the movie’s languorous three-and-a-half-hour runtime, and much like The Irishman, Scorsese is no longer in any rush to tell his stories, and Flower Moon’s unique pace takes some getting used to. Much like the frog in the pot of water, you don’t notice that the temperature has been turned up until its too late and everything is already boiling over.

This is a $200 million production that only Martin Scorsese would get to make, regularly filling the screen indelible imagery, accompanied by DiCaprio and Gladstone – and in supporting roles, Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow, Cara Jade Myers – giving some exceptional performances. And then there’s De Niro, and any fan of the legendary actor will want to see him back firing on all cylinders, but in a way not quite like we’ve ever seen him do before.

So, no, Killers of the Flower Moon isn’t the best movie of 2023, but it does feature some of the most memorable highlights of the year.

Killers of the Flower Moon arrives in cinemas on 20 October 2023.

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