Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Martin Scorsese’s Epic Masterpiece ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Breaks Down the Woes of Toxic White Male Fragility

5/5 fragile white men.

Martin Scorsese is heralded as one of the greatest directors of all time, and rightfully so. His work is a testament what cinema is capable of, but there is something about Killers of the Flower Moon that stands completely on its own, and encapsulates Scorsese’s work as a whole, to make a masterpiece for the seasoned director and writer. Based David Grann’s book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, this story is often framed around the creation of the FBI as we know it, but Scorsese and his co-writer Eric Roth have woven a story that belongs to the Osage people.

Recommended Videos

Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone) is a member of the Osage Nation, which became rich by finding oil on their land, which caused tension with the white men of Fairfax, Oklahoma. Scorsese uses a mix of shots of old-timey photographs and a booming score to highlight that wealth and the looming threat of what these white men were capable of to set the scene of what Killers of the Flower Moon has become.

With a runtime of nearly three and a half hours, the movie doesn’t feel like it drags. Scorsese’s and Roth’s screenplay is constantly moving and evolving, weaving in years of time through Mollie’s life with her husband Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), all of it highlighting white men’s inability to deal with a lack of power and wealth against those they deem “less than” themselves.

Jesse Plemons and Robert De Niro in Killers of the Flower Moon
(Apple TV+)

The fact that the Osage people can afford jewels and nice things is seen as a direct threat to the white men of Fairfax in their own warped way, and while the Osage people do not use that as a way to intimidate them, the white men use it against them, even imposing outside control over the money of the Osage people. At every turn, a white man is somehow in power in their lives, and for many of the women of the Osage people, they marry these white men who are not doing it for “love” but for the money that comes with an Osage person.

And while the Osage people as a whole are being killed one by one for the wealth of the white men of Fairfax, there is one family that is at the center being picked off for the greed of another.

This is Lily Gladstone’s time.

Mollie (Lily Gladstone) with Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio) in 'Killers of the Flower Moon'.
(Apple TV+)

From its first moments, Killers of the Flower Moon, it is clear that this story is Mollie’s, despite shining performances from stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. It is her voice telling us who among the Osage Nation is being killed and the failure of the police to investigate their murders. It is Mollie who we follow alongside Ernest’s journey with his uncle, William “King” Hale. Mollie is the one who gets the FBI to come to Fairfax, and Lily Gladstone’s performance is so breathtakingly subtle and brilliant that it will leave you in stunned silence by the end, wanting to see more from Gladstone in everything possible. Perfection in every way.

Without Gladstone, the movie would have been yet again men forcibly killing Indigenous people for their own gain, a story we’ve seen time and time again, not centered on the voices of those who are under attack. While yes, the movie depicts countless bodies of the Osage Nation in the brutal killings that brought the FBI to Fairfax, the story is centered around Mollie’s dedication to find out why this is happening to her people. Gladstone is so wonderfully brilliant in her portrayal of Mollie’s understated power, with her ability to convey her pain and her anger with one look, that when she does break at times throughout the movie, you feel that pain echoing throughout the theater.

Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) talking to his uncle William Hale (Robert De Niro) in 'Killers of the Flower Moon.'
(Apple TV+)

De Niro and DiCaprio have worked together in the past, but for many, seeing their dynamic in this film is surprising. It shows not only Scorsese’s ability to craft characters but to also use the same actors time and time again and keep their performances fresh. DiCaprio has crafted a filmography of often himboish archetypes that let themselves get run over, but Ernest really highlights how he can bring those charms and wits about to woo someone who is too intelligent for him. Paired with De Niro’s King, it’s a match made in villainy heaven.

King could have been played with his cards on his sleeve, easily showing us all what his plans are, but De Niro really hones in on his ability to hide just how much he was willing to hurt everyone around him. Without their almost tag-team efforts, the movie wouldn’t be nearly as effective at showing just how much the men of Fairfax were willing to destroy the lives of the Osage for their own gain.

A powerhouse performance from Gladstone, one of DiCaprio’s best yet, De Niro at his finest, and an overall masterpiece from Scorsese. Overall, just brilliance.

(featured image: Apple TV+)

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.