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The Conservative Critic

Does Killers of the Flower Moon live up to its true story?



Killers of the Flower Moon recently released to Amazon Prime and other streaming services following an exclusive theatrical run. The film is based on a book by the same name by David Grann which tells the shocking true story of the Osage Murders. 

The film adapted and directed by Martin Scorsese was highly anticipated with all of the buzz of an Academy Award shortlister which the film is likely to become very soon. With the combination of Scorsese alumni Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro and the promise of a violent story of intrigue and organized crime, it is easy to understand the excitement.

But does it really live up to the underlying true story? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda? 

Conservative Critic Meter Check: Killers of the Flower Moon

Overall rating: Allowed greatness to slip through the hourglass

The hype around Killers of the Flower Moon (Killers) is high and perhaps it is the hype which leaves the film wanting. The story of the Osage murders is an intriguing one which if made into a film could have a lot of surprises, shocks and twists. There is nothing wrong with the source material and nothing wanting from the truth which would have made Killers perhaps one of the better tales of organized crime and greed ever told. But Killers sacrificed greatness at the altar of erudite but choosing to meander wantonly through the story not only making it interminably long but also burying all mystery and excitement under a pile of artistry. From the master of the craft who gave us The Departed which is perhaps the best thriller ever made and certainly the best of his work, it is surprising to see Scorsese forgo subterfuge for the sake of sanctimony. 

There is no question that the film is beautifully shot and artfully crafted including the many beautiful native Osage costumes and adornments and while some of the acting is best in class, the veterans are as clumsy as a magician revealing his trick. 

The film takes a lens to the true story and broadens it to fall as deep as possible into the “these white men are dangerous” trope which, on top of being offensive, is extremely tiring. It also completely brushes over the fact that Calvin Coolidge (a conservative) is who granted all Native Americans citizenship and then quietly celebrates the advent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aka the boot even though the FBI seriously blundered the Osage Murder investigation and was already in the business of inspiring more crime than they solve. 

Overall, the beauty of the film and the little known story it tells makes it a passable movie but it certainly should not regarded as anywhere close to this year’s Best Picture. 

Is it entertaining? 

Rating: Interminable 

Killers is far too long. There is no need for the amount of time wasted on meaningful looks and long tracking shots and tedious side stories. The length of the film not only adds nothing to the story, it actually takes away from the ability to keep with it until the end. 

Beyond its length, the whole plot is pretty immediately rolled out in front of viewers. There are no surprises or guesses at what is going on in Osage from the minute you meet all the characters forward. Some of that is bad acting and some of it is that the film literally shows the viewer what is going on and the viewer has nearly full omnipotence throughout. The idea of an omnipotent audience isn’t unheard of or particularly bad (for example, Oppenheimer, required a level of omnipotence since the story is so well known) but when there is a genuine murder mystery (and a good one at that) available to the story it seems like an odd choice to remove all the mystery from the murder. 

Making the Osage Murders certifiably boring is the real crime and Killers is guilty. 

Does it have artistic/intellectual value? 

Rating: Beautiful but not strongly performed

Killers is beautiful. It’s a true celebration of the midwest and an era of time which changed fundamentally what America was going to become. The Osage nation heritage is richly celebrated featuring beautiful blankets, adornments, ceremonial attire and more. The historical accuracy of clothing, technology and trends of the time is well managed and gives the film almost an ora of an elaborate museum display. 

There were a few stand out performances, the most important of which is Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkart the film’s heroine. Gladstone manages joy, grief, physical pain and fear all with a quiet power that is at once unsettling and deeply admirable. She creates a Mollie who is easy to like but not easy to know. It’s a brilliant performance and the major bright spot of the entire film. William Belleau as Henry Roan was also heartbreakingly good.

That being said, DiCaprio and De Niro (De Niro in particular) brought perhaps too much to the table with their performances as Ernest Burkhart and William Hale respectively. The two both gave heavy handed caricatures of their characters watering them down almost entirely to archetype. De Niro’s opening scene genuinely gives the entire plot away simply because it is so poorly performed and DiCaprio is not better. Perhaps the two veteran actors were not subject to as much direction or scrutiny as those who performed significantly better like Gladstone. Or perhaps they did exactly as they were told and what they were told was bad. Either way, any hype around their performances is either purchased or nonsense as both men have given significantly better with significantly less to work with.

Is it liberal propaganda? 

Rating: ‘These white men are dangerous’ 

The truth of the story is enough to be the truth. But the film goes a bit further, seeming to make a grander statement about the inherent intentions and motivations of one race (white people) versus another (people of the Osage Nation). Instead of limiting the scope of the commentary to a specific group of people in a specific time, the film does its best to extrapolate generalizations from a moment in time. It does so by erasing any positive relationships native people had with white people during this time including in the context of the Osage Murders. 

For example, the film fictionalizes Mollie Burkhart going to Washington to meet President Coolidge. It depicts a photo where President Coolidge essentially brushes her off when she pleads for assistance with the Osage Murders. In truth, it was President Coolidge who granted citizenship to native people in America and who was the most active in establishing relationships between the federal government and the tribal governments across the country. 

The villainization of white people is extremely tired. Especially when the film was written and directed by an Italian American man. Viewers have neither the time nor the patience to be made vaguely guilty about the color of their skin when they had nothing to do at all with the crimes of the men featured in the story nor did the vast majority of white people who were their contemporaries. And in fact, the true villain of the story is the corrupt Government who tried to steal agency from the individual Osage people who had private property and wealth that the greedy government wanted their hands on and yet the narrative of the film is ‘white’ versus ‘native’ instead of ‘government’ v ‘people’ which was the actual truth of what was globally occurring. 

Additionally, the film vaguely hero worships the deep state re: FBI who swoop in to solve the murders after no one else can/will. But in reality when the FBI went to investigate the murders finally they hired a known murderer to be their informant and instead of doing so he disappeared and then robbed a bank and killed people using the resources the FBI had provided to him. Sound really familiar? Some things really never do change.


Killers of the Flower Moon is egregiously overhyped and quite boring but it’s underlying true story is fascinating, it is beautifully made and Lily Gladstone is sensational. Its a fine film but not great.

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