mold: Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser
director: Martin Scorsese
rating: Four Stars (out of 5)
A master hits the ground running at the end of his career riding on the crest assassins of flower moonA sprawling but intimate epic that combines elements of Martin Scorsese’s forte, the gangster film, with the conventions of a Western and the intriguing twists of a doomed tale of love.
Above all, the three-and-a-half-hour epic is never without the personal signature of a director who is not only in complete control of the medium and content, but also fully aware of the potential of a reigning story. To express the terrifying depth of terror into which the poison seeping inside the machine of American capitalism can seep.
Adapted from David Grann’s 2017 non-fiction bestseller of the same name, the Eric Roth and Scorsese-scripted film journeys into the heart of the brutality and immorality that dominated the Osage Nation in the 1920s, when greedy white businessmen forced Native American Scramble to squeeze the dry community after the discovery of oil makes them the richest people in the entire world, the “chosen people”.
assassins of flower moonBolstered by Robbie Robertson’s masterful background score that rises and falls with the rhythm of the narrative and Rodrigo Prieto’s piercing cinematography that brings landscapes and faces alive to near perfection, it portrays America’s transition into the 20th century.
On the receiving end are the Osage people whose control over their resources has been gradually eroded and many of them have been brutally killed with the aim of destroying their lives, culture and wealth. Marriages are arranged between white men and Osage women so that property under the control of the latter is gradually chipped away.
The story focuses on two contrasting men: an inflexible and unscrupulous William Hale (Robert De Niro) and a flexible Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), a dangerous tool in the hands of the older man. The former self-styled “King of the Osage Hills”. He pretends to be well-wisher of the people but is a cynical exploiter who hides behind a mask of gentleness.
Hale is the mastermind of the Osage murders and many other crimes. “The Osage are the best and most beautiful people on God’s earth,” he tells Ernest and then goes about his mission to con them out of their wealth, completely impervious to the moral implications of his acts.
After World War I, Ernest returns to his hometown, Fairfax, with a visceral injury that leaves him unable to do physical work. “King” Hale, the man’s uncle, sees him as a means to further his nefarious plans, which include getting him married to Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman and the family of a single mother, Lizzie (Tantu Cardinal) Staying away is included. Three sisters, including feisty Anna (Clara Jade Myers), and sickly Minnie (Jillian Dion).
Tom White (Jesse Plemons), an old-world Texas Ranger, is hired by the Bureau of Investigation’s J.J. Edgar Hoover to investigate incidents on the Osage Reservation. Even though the role is of secondary importance, Plemons delivers a rock-solid performance.
In fact, performance in assassins of flower moon All are fabulous, none more so than Leonardo DiCaprio. He disappears into character as best he can and brings out the smarmy and the conflicted with equal force. It is a star turn in which the star is almost invisible and the turn is the pivot on which the entire film revolves.
Kingpin Robert De Niro, who believes he is well within his rights to treat the Osage people, is a towering presence. Playing a man without any hesitation and without any pretensions and ambiguity, he adds layers to the role to give it depth and range.
Lily Gladstone, who represents the other end of the moral scale, is dazzling and moving as the woman who has not the vaguest idea of the fate that befell her and her family by marrying a man who Waiting after which is not good.
A conspiracy drama ripping through the cloak of silence that surrounds the notion of the death of the Wild West and the usurpation of indigenous resources in the name of civilizational progress is perfectly acceptable, assassins of flower moon is a stunning cinematic achievement that repeatedly reaches heights that match the best of Scorsese’s films.
The script goes deep into the core of the philosophy which suggests that it may be solely in the larger interest of the country to be the guiding force in terms of acquisition of wealth. And that’s where the universal relevance of the film flows from.
assassins of flower moon It’s about a point in American history but it’s also a globally topical topic. It is about gluttony, economic and cultural power dynamics, and the collective amnesia that grips societies when it comes to dealing with inconvenient truths about their past. Despite its grand backdrop and massive narrative spectrum, the film subverts its primary objective – the ugliness of greed.
Its 206-minute runtime may seem daunting at first, but as assassins of flower moon Unspool it just grows on you and transports you to a time and place that not only feels tangible but speaks to our times in a way that is urgent and to the point. A triumph full of sublime moments that stay with you long after the movie is over.