After an unparalleled, more-than-six-decade-long career, there are certain things we’ve come to expect from the films of Martin Scorsese: a nerve-jangling story told on a thrillingly epic scale; shady dealings which culminate in bursts of outrageous violence and usually see our protagonist wind up in a blistering court scene; and said protagonist often being played by either Leonardo DiCaprio or Robert De Niro. In that sense, the auteur’s latest crime thriller, Killers of the Flower Moon—a three-and-a-half-hour-long adaptation of David Grann’s non-fiction bestseller of the same name—is quintessential Scorsese, combining all of the above while also turning its gaze away from Irish American strivers on the East Coast and towards a very different community in a starkly different part of the country: the resilient Native American women of the Osage Nation in northeastern Oklahoma.
The action opens in the 1920s, at a time when the Osage people were—startlingly—some of the wealthiest in the world per capita. Oil was discovered beneath their lands and they reaped the benefits, dressing in opulent furs, buying extravagant jewellery and riding around in Rolls-Royces, many of them driven by flat-capped, white chauffeurs. Among the latter is Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio), a war veteran who has recently returned to the area to live with his uncle, Bill Hale (De Niro), a cattle farmer who masquerades as an ally to the Osage, but is hellbent on acquiring a substantial piece of their vast fortune.
He points his nephew in the direction of Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), an enigmatic member of the Native American community who immediately takes a shine to Ernest. Soon, they’re married, but disaster befalls Mollie at every turn: a string of rich Osage tribe members, including her own sisters, are murdered in mysterious circumstances; no leads are found; and Mollie herself begins to grow pale and sickly from diabetes, with her regular insulin shots—administered by Ernest, of course—only making her worse.