Scorsese's 'Flower Moon' Shines a Stark Light on America's Dark Past

By Olivia Weaving October 19, 2023

Martin Scorsese's latest epic "Killers of the Flower Moon" presents a bleak look at a slice of American history, chronicling the brutal exploitation of Native Americans for their oil wealth.

Director Martin Scorsese embarks on yet another long - but not quite epic - journey into the heart of darkness with his new film "Killers of the Flower Moon." Clocking in at three and a half hours, it's the latest offering from the seasoned director for Apple TV+, which has stepped into the role previously held by Netflix, offering Scorsese carte blanche in the editing room.

"Flower Moon", much like “The Irishman,” reveals a chilling portrayal of the American past. It takes viewers back a century to when Native Americans were brutally murdered for oil wealth, while local authorities looked the other way. A staunchly earnest production, Scorsese's commitment to historical and cultural accuracy brings to light the harsh truths that often go untold.

Scorsese has reunited with familiar faces for this project, including his frequent collaborator, Robert De Niro. Largely, "Flower Moon," feels like a commemorative dance between the two, shedding light on America's violent history. Leonardo DiCaprio also makes an appearance in his sixth feature-length film with Scorsese. However, due to the nature of his character, his performance lacks complexity, leaving a gap in emotional depth.

That void is expertly filled by Lily Gladstone, who portrays Mollie Kyle, an Osage woman. Her family, being heirs to the aforementioned oil riches, were among the wealthiest people globally per capita but paid a tragically high price with their lives. Gladstone's performance is compelling, but the narrative leans toward the character of Ernest, played by DiCaprio.

Bill Hale, played by De Niro, is the town's respected citizen who aims to seize control of the oil rights for himself, using his nephew, DiCaprio's Ernest, as a pawn. Recently returned from the Great War, Ernest marries Mollie, thinking it to be the fastest way to riches.

Scorsese takes his time unfolding the events, making the narrative feel like a revelatory chapter in US history. Hints to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre adds context, underscoring the brutalities inflicted on people of color with no fear of repercussions.

The narrative takes a turn with the introduction of the freshly formed FBI, represented by Jesse Plemons. While it's a narrative shift many might wish came sooner, it adds an interesting layer to the film's arc.

Scorsese's ventures into streaming have had an above-average outcome, with the value of his reputation and star power often outweighing the final product's merit. "Flower Moon" will be widely released in theaters, including several Imax screenings. This paves a sense of magnificence, the very goal of such endeavors.

While films like "Oppenheimer" have proved audiences are willing to bear through lengthy period dramas, this remains an exception. Scorsese's "Flower Moon" unravels an elusive, grim chapter in history, albeit with limited fanfare. The film will premiere in US theaters on October 20, and will be available later on Apple TV+. The film is rated R.