/ 19 October 2023

Killers of the Flower Moon: Best picture of the year

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The film will transport you into history like no other

Without spoiling the plot for everyone, I think it is safe to say that Killers of the Flower Moon  is another Martin Scorsese masterpiece! This film is the best picture of the year. 

In our forecast review, I had said that Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance on psychological thriller Shutter Island was unmatched. I was wrong.  

He consistently delivers exceptional performances, and what really stands out is his ability to capture those tantrum moments, injecting humour into his characters. He has the ability to bring them alive in a way that many cannot.  

Scorsese introduces us to a world many of us are unfamiliar with through the eyes of Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), a World War I veteran who is friendly (depends on who you ask) and has a strong desire for money and women. 

It becomes clear from the moment Burkhart arrives in Fairfax, the Osage town, and talks to his uncle William K Hale (Robert De Niro), a respected cattle rancher in the community, that his desires are taking a dangerous turn.

De Niro, as always, is in top form. His collaboration with Scorsese is legendary. However, the true revelation here is Lily Gladstone, who delivers a breakthrough performance. I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes home the Oscar for Best Actress.

Her performance brought a subtle yet powerful feel to the film to counteract Scorsese’s usual high-paced action. It was subtle but evoked a desire to listen and connect. 

The film is based on the book titled Killers of the Flower Moon, written by David Grann and published in 2017. It documents a series of murders that occurred in the Osage Indian Nation in the early 20th century, when the Osage people had become incredibly wealthy due to the oil on their land. The murders, which targeted Osage tribe members, were part of a larger conspiracy to gain control of the valuable oil rights and wealth.

The story sheds a unique light on a historical event that’s almost unbelievable in its brutality. It’s a scathing commentary on human greed, corruption and selfishness, and is an uncomfortable reminder of a very dark chapter in American history.

Scorsese’s dedication to representing Osage culture and people in an authentic and respectful manner is commendable. It’s a refreshing departure from past misrepresentations. 

The incredible cinematography allows the audience to travel with the characters side-by-side, but the film is two hours long, and I think it could have been shorter. 

The film premieres Friday 20 October on Apple TV+ and Paramount Pictures. 

Lesego Chepape is a climate reporting fellow funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.