No one makes movies quite like Martin Scorsese and his latest, Killers of the Flower Moon, runs to a mammoth four hours long. That means there's an awful lot for Scorsese-philes to tuck into, from visuals to performances and themes, as it unspools a jaw-dropping, real-life historical conspiracy.
Killers of the Flower Moon is adapted from David Grann's book of the same name. The movie, adapted by Forrest Gump Oscar winner Eric Roth, dramatises the early-20th-century Osage Nation tragedy that was informed by oil-rich corruption and the ruthless decimation of the old American West.
When the Osage discover that they have been deposited on oil-rich land, having been repeatedly shuffled around on diminishing reservations by the machinations of the U.S. government, they are transformed overnight into some of the richest people in the country. They soon flaunt their new-found wealth, buying expensive clothes and flash cars.
However, it doesn't take long for the venture capitalists to start circling around the Osage. Pretty soon, and not coincidentally, the indigenous people start dying in startling numbers, prompting an intervention by the nascent FBI to get to the bottom of the killings.
It's the perfect material for the director of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and others, staring unblinkingly into difficult subject matter and compelling us as audience members to do the same. And then we have the canvas of characters putting a human face on the expansive narrative. Acquaint yourselves with the following figures before the movie is released at Cineworld this October.
1. Ernest Burkhart (played by Leonardo DiCaprio)
The de facto protagonist of the story, Ernest returns home to Oklahoma in the 1920s where he's greeted as a war hero. Ernest emerges as a seemingly well-intentioned but easily-led individual who threatens to fall under the influence of his greedy uncle William (more on whom below).
However, Ernest may well have found his redemption in his marriage to Osage Nation woman Mollie (see below). As Mollie's family and tribe start dying in suspiciously large numbers and horrific circumstances, Ernest vows to stay the course and offer her emotional support. But is he up to the task?
Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio now enjoys his sixth collaboration with Scorsese following Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006), Shutter Island (2010) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2014). DiCaprio's partnership with the director has been distinguished by its degrees of emotional intensity with the occasional dash of black comedy. Rest assured, DiCaprio's portrayal of Ernest will veer very much into the former description.
2. Mollie (played by Lily Gladstone)
Mollie, later to become Mollie Burkhart, is blighted by the sudden and horrendous deaths of her family and wider tribe members. She also fears that the murderous conspirators seemingly after the Osage Nation's oil will soon start targeting her.
As the conflict between the indigenous tribes and the white venture capitalists spills over into yet more violence, Mollie meets Ernest Burkhart. Although initially wary of him, Mollie soon learns to form a connection, despite their manifest cultural differences, and they soon marry. But how long can it last?
The character of Mollie is the moral and emotional centrepiece of Grann's story and critics have lauded Lily Gladstone's performance as the backbone of Scorsese's movie. Gladstone is of Blackfeet and Nimíipuu heritage and grew up on the reservation of the Blackfeet Nation, and brings an authentic level of impassioned rage and world-weary ennui to the role of Mollie.
3. William Hale (played by Robert De Niro)
The opportunistic, vulture-like William is played by Scorsese's muse Robert De Niro. Together, they have formed one of the most memorable actor-director partnerships in film history with De Niro often assaying memorably cracked and dangerous individuals from Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver to boxer Jake La Motta in Raging Bull.
Film fans don't want to miss their latest collaboration, which sees De Niro in quietly seething, calculating Goodfellas-style form. William is one of the nefarious characters with his eye on the oil-rich land – the only problem is, the Osage have staked out their claim already. He soon plans to use his somewhat naive nephew Ernest in his schemes to expand his zone of influence, but will he succeed?
A captivating, saddening and riveting story unfolds on October 20th when Killers of the Flower Moon is released at Cineworld. Click the link below to book your tickets.