Killers of the Flower Moon tells the true story of a string of murders in turn-of-the-century Oklahoma that left at least 60 members of the Osage indigenous American tribe dead. It’s a story that is important to tell. However, in the case of director Martin Scorsese’s newest effort, the delivery leaves a bit to be desired.
The weaving, circuitous route the filmmaker takes to the main plot leaves the film’s first hour drifting aimlessly and its audience waiting for the story to kick in. Appearances from several well-known actors work as an infusion of much-needed energy as the piece heads into its third hour, but Killers of the Flower Moon‘s pace over the course of the first two thirds of the movie is difficult to overcome. In its closing minutes, the film tries to make its audience feel for its real-life subjects and the ramifications of the story, but the three middling hours that precede it make emotional beats hard to swallow.
The performances in the film, including from Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, are predictably good while not delivering anything to write home about. Lily Gladstone’s performance is understated, but vital. She plays her part effectively and holds her own with some silver-screen royalty, which is a compliment in and of itself.
Killers of the Flower Moon feels as if Martin Scorsese’s filmmaking id, unbound by the limitations of the conventional film studio wisdom, has indulged itself with little regard for the audience’s patience or attention span. At three hours and 26 minutes, the film is a lot for one sitting and could have withstood some significant edits while still maintaining major plot points.
Indeed, the film would be better served in pieces, perhaps as part of a limited series on AppleTV+. One suspects this will be how the film will be ingested, whether or not Scorsese and the folks from Apple intended it, as people watching from their living rooms tune in and out as they please. In the long term, that choice afforded to its AppleTV+ audience might be the best scenario for Killers of the Flower Moon.