Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Killers of the Flower Moon - Movie Review

The Movie: Killers of the Flower Moon

The Director: Martin Scorsese

The Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion, William Belleau, Louis Cancelmi, Tatanka Means, Michael Abbot Jr., Pat Healy, Scott Shepard, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson

The Story: An epic western crime saga, where real love crosses paths with unspeakable betrayal.

The Review:
My number one takeaway from sitting through Martin Scorsese's three and a half hour Western true crime drama is how impressed I was at myself for not having to take a bathrroom break. And yes, this was achieved while also enjoying a barrell of popcorn and keg of soda (refillable, of course) so I was as surprised as anyone might be having achieved such an amazing feat of endurance. Was this a testament to the overall quality of the movie? I have to say no as I was fairly underwhelmed by what is being hyped as the next savior of cinema.

The whole thing just seems very indulgent and I'm not sure if somone like Martin Scorsese should be the one telling this story and, looking a the credits, I don't see much in the way of Native American representation outside of the cast. The whole picture has an air of self importance to it which is capped off by a closing sequence that had me cringing with how self indulgent it was. Also, did this movie really need to be three and a half hours? Absolutely not. The same story could have been told easily with an hour less to work with.

I will say that Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker knocks it out of the park and at least makes the long run time feel less long. The story moves along nicely for the most part and again I'm sort of grading on a curve here because there's a lot of unnecessary material that she had to work with. Visually, there's a lot to like as a period piece, the film covers several years worth of time,  with a special shout out to award winning costume designer Jacqueline West. The clothing across the board is just beautifully done with so much life and texture literally woven into every bit of it.

A lot of people are raving about the performances turned in by Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Lily Gladstone although I won't be one of them. For De Niro and DiCaprio, I would say their performances are middle of the pack for each of their respective careers. DeNiro is just sort of there playing a watered down version of his Italian mafia type characters and I felt like DiCaprio was trying too hard to be something specific.

Lily Gladstone is probably the highlight of this movie and one can only hope this movie kicks down all the doors for her to have whatever success she is able to have in her career. What impressed me most about her performance is what she was able to do with material that was very limiting from a character perspective. This movie really should have been a showcase for both the actor and the character as a strong, dynamic personality but she spent most of the 3.5 hours being sick without much to do besides lay in bed trying not to die. Instead we get Leo front and center for almost the entire movie which I kind of get but he really should have taken a back seat to Gladstone this time around.

The story itself is a very important one to have get out there on this type of platform and scaled to a global audience. There should never be any shortage of stories about how white men in America ravaged the indeginous population for the sole purpose of collecting as much wealth and power as possible. Scorsese does a good enough job at getting this message across but it still feels like it's coming from an outsiders perspective and the whole thing is very white centered with the two male leads put front and center over everyone else.

The best we can hope for here is that this movie opens the door for people to seek out more of these types of stories and to dig deeper into the realities of colonization and the wiping out of indigenous populations here in America. Overall, the movie is good but it's just way too long and it doesn't live up to the hype brought on by such a powerful creative team.

The Verdict:
Killers of the Flower Moon is a really long movie that doesn't do anything to justify its three and a half hours run time. I expected more from a list of names tht includes Scorsese, De Niro, and DiCaprio although it was nice to see Lily Gladstone outshine all of them with a performance that rises above everything around her.

The movie is available in IMAX and other premium format theaters although I would say more important than the screen size is the comfort of the seats in the theater that you choose.

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