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‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ draws attention 1st weekend in theaters

Collegian | Dylan Tusinski

Martin Scorsese’s latest flick “Killers of the Flower Moon,” starring Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio, has been making headlines since its release Friday, Oct. 20. The film was Scorsese’s third biggest opening weekend ever, following only “Shutter Island” (2010) and “The Departed” (2006).

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” based on the 2017 nonfiction book of the same name written by David Grann, the revisionist Western made $44 million at the box office worldwide on opening weekend and $23 million in the United States alone.


The film tells the story of several murders of Indigenous people in Osage County, Oklahoma, during the ’20s as well as the dichotomy between the white people and the Osage people and the tension that a unique financial imbalance between the two can cause.

Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) is the simple veteran nephew of William Hale (Robert De Niro), a white rancher on the Osage Nation reservation in Oklahoma. The reservation is filthy rich with oil money, making the Osage people the wealthiest people in the country per capita.

Upon his return to America after World War I, Ernest meets Mollie Burkhart (Gladstone), an Osage woman whose family’s oil rights are coveted by Hale and others like him. At the same time as they’re falling in love, Osage people are being murdered for their oil deeds right and left, and it starts getting a little too close to home.

Chock-full of cameos sprinkled among a wildly talented, largely Indigenous cast, the way the story unravels is gripping and will keep you glued to your seat for the hallmark Scorsese run time.

Casting Indigenous people in Indigenous roles is something Hollywood has only just begun doing in earnest. Infamously, Taylor Lautner’s presence as a white man playing an Indigenous role in the “Twilight” franchise comes to mind. But “Killers of the Flower Moon” has thorough Indigenous casting through Gladstone as Mollie, Tantoo Cardinal as Lizzie, Cara Jade Myers as Anna, Jillian Dion as Minnie, Janae Collins as Reta and several others all from Indigenous nations.

However, the film has drawn controversy for the portrayal of Indigenous people in general. Firstly, the violence against Indigenous people is graphic and shocking in a way that leaves the viewer rattled — and it’s plentiful to the point of being inarguably heavy-handed.

One might find themself debating whether it’s a necessary addition to the film or if this deeply real issue could have been shown with more grace. It’s pertinent in this situation to defer to Indigenous voices on the matter.

K. Devery Jacobs, an Indigenous actress best known for her role in the Hulu show “Reservation Dogs,” said, “I don’t feel that these very real people were shown honor or dignity in the horrific portrayal of their deaths.” She also replied to the writing of these characters as “helpless” against the white men and at their whim entirely, without any means to push back.

Though, one thing about the film that is widely agreed upon is that Gladstone absolutely rules the screen. She performs in a way that leaves the viewer feeling the emotions of the scene heavy in their chest. Even down to microexpressions, Gladstone is the standout point of this film by a long shot. Part of the Piegan Blackfeet and Nez Perce nations in Montana, she is expected to sweep the next awards season.


“Killers of the Flower Moon” is currently enjoying a wide release in theaters to qualify it for awards but will likely be available to stream on Apple TV+ by early December.

Reach Hailee Stegall at or on Twitter @stegallbagel.

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