19 May 2023

‘Killers of the Flower Moon’: Scorsese’s new crime epic spotlights the murders of Indigenous Americans

The film will mark the first time Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro have all worked on a project together.

Martin Scorsese is very much still at it. Just a few years after dropping the three-and-half-hour gangster epic The Irishman on Netflix, Killers of the Flower Moon, the 80-year-old’s new movie, is coming to Apple TV+ this year. Now, the first trailer for the flick has arrived – here’s everything we know so far.

On paper, Killers of the Flower Moon is a textbook Scorsese crime picture. It will see him reunite with Leonardo DiCaprio for the sixth time, a decade after their last collaborative venture, 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a period crime epic about a murder within the Osage Indigenous American tribe in 1920s Oklahoma and the unorthodox FBI investigation that followed. Robert De Niro, naturally, is in it too.

Killers of the Flower Moon is adapted from journalist David Grann’s account of a five-year period in the 1920s during which twenty Indigenous Americans, all of the Osage tribe, were murdered in cold blood for their cash-rich oil shares – the so-called “Osage Reign of Terror”. However, having been in development for years, with DiCaprio originally attached to a completely different lead character, some pretty hefty reworking has been done to the script and Grann’s original story.

The original story is a pure crime mystery thriller, with the focal point being Tom White, played by Jesse Plemons, the FBI detective,  who saves the day. But in an interview with Deadline, Scorsese said that route would fall flat on screen. “Leo DiCaprio looked at me and said, ‘Where’s the heart in this movie?’ This was when Eric Roth and I were writing the script from the point of view of the FBI coming in and unravelling everything,” he said, adding, “Look, the minute the FBI comes in, you see a character that would be played by Robert De Niro, Bill Hale, you know he’s a bad guy. There’s no mystery. So, what is it? A police procedural? Who cares! We’ve got fantastic ones on television.”

Instead, the lens is shifted to DiCaprio’s character Ernest, De Niro’s character Bill’s nephew and a character married to an Osage woman who is at death’s door when the FBI are called to the area. The mysterious circumstances around her illness beg the question of whether he’s just in it to reap the spoils of Osage land.

DiCaprio, also speaking to Deadline, said the new focus on the romance at the heart of the story speaks to the wider cultural issues at play. “Ernest and Mollie really represented how twisted and complex some of this stuff was, culturally,” he said. “A lot of Osage women were marrying white men who really came to prey on them, to take over their headlights and seize their oil money. And yet, at the same time, what struck me was one scene in the initial draft we had, the real testimony of Ernest and Mollie, as he explains his part in this horrific plan. They still loved each other. That was the twisted complexity of what made this a truly dark American story.”

It has been announced that the film will open in a limited release on 6th October and then wider from 20th October in the UK. The film will also end up streaming on Apple TV+. However, there’s no official streaming release date yet.

  • Writer Chris Saunders
  • Banner Image Credit Apple TV+

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