I’ve noticed a trend with Martin Scorsese’s last two films, this and 2019’s “The Irishman.” In his older pictures there’s a frenetic pacing that always has a forward moving energy. Think “Goodfellas,” or “Casino.” These last couple of films have become more contemplative. I think this comes with a Scorsese that realizes that the end of his career is much closer than the beginning. He’s been the head of film preservation efforts and he’s made it known his concerns with the direction of the industry he’s spent his entire life experiencing and creating within. In my mind, “The Irishman” was Scorsese’s reckoning on his well-known legacy with the gangster film. “Killers of the Flower Moon” is, to me, Scorsese reckoning with the ugly history of this country that many still refuse to acknowledge.
Fresh off his deployment to Europe, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) comes to Osage county in Oklahoma to live with his influential uncle, William Hale (Robert De Niro). The Osage were forced to live on this reservation in Oklahoma, but once large deposits of oil were found under the land, many unsavory characters have come to get their fill. All the while, Hale concocts a scheme to inherit the Osage’s land through marriage, especially after Ernest takes a liking to an Osage woman, Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone). As wealthy Osage people start coming up dead after marrying white people, and after the Osage tribe goes to Washington D.C. to ask for help in person, Bureau of Investigation agent Tom White (Jesse Plemmons) and his team are sent in to ascertain the situation.
This is not a film I would recommend if you’re trying to have a good time at the theaters. Nonetheless, this is a film that everyone should watch. As I said before, this is a film that isn’t afraid to shove your face in the ugly violence and keep it there for as long as it happens. Is it egregious? Maybe to some. In a three-hour movie, it is a relatively small part of the picture. But when it does happen, it’s ugly and brief. I don’t think the message would come across as well with the mere suggestion of the violence. Our being forced to stew in it makes the messaging all the more potent. Lily Gladstone puts in a performance for the ages in this picture, going toe-to-toe with some of the most respected actors in the industry and then some. She and DiCaprio’s dynamic is one I would think will be written about for many years to come. It’s impressive how despicable DiCaprio and De Niro play in this while still being relatable to a point. Every single moving part in this film points to the conclusion, and that’s something that can really be commended in a film as long as this one is.
I doubt this will be the last we hear of this picture, I would put it in as a lock for a good couple statuettes at the end of this award season, every single one of which I think is very much deserved. In a year where there are many films of such high caliber, this one seems to stand in a league of its own at times.
Tonight, UNO’s Office of Student Leadership, Involvement and Inclusion invites faculty, staff and students to watch Scorsese’s newest film at 5 p.m. in Film Streams’ Dundee Theater at 50th and Dodge Street. NUID or MavCARD will be accepted for entrance to the private event.