Martin Scorsese has been vocal about his disappointment with superhero films and how they’ve taken over Hollywood. Whether you agree with him or not, at the very least he has made some good points. However, as great as Scorsese is, he’s just as much to blame for what’s going on in Hollywood right now, and that trend continues with his latest release, Killers of the Flower Moon.
The Wolf of Wall Street, The Irishman, and Killers of the Flower Moon are considered by many to be Scorsese’s biggest critical triumphs over the last decade. In fact, many would be hard-pressed to even name anything else Scorsese has done over the last 10 years. One thing all three of these films have in common is that they’re all at least three hours in length, with his last two films hitting the three-and-a-half-hour mark.
This brings us to Killers of the Flower Moon. The way Scorsese lays out the film, introduces all of the characters, and presents his take on historical events, is masterful. There’s no way this film doesn’t walk away with at least half a dozen Oscar nominations. But the main, and possibly only real problem with the film is its length. At just shy of three and a half hours, Scorsese immediately loses a large portion of the potential audience for Killers of the Flower Moon, something superhero films generally don’t have to worry about.
The movie is based on the nonfiction book of the same name and centers around the Osage Indian murders of the early 1900s. The infamous William Hale (Robert De Niro), embeds himself into the Osage Nation and then convinces his nephew Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio) to assist him with a scheme to essentially rob the Osage of their oil money.
It’s a convoluted, and occasionally difficult-to-follow, series of intertwining characters that creates a compelling story for audiences to dive into. Astute viewers will find that Scorsese isn’t trying to hide anything or have the film play out like an elaborate murder mystery. Instead, he lays out all of the details and important characters near the beginning of the film, then builds each one up (and in some cases takes them down) over the next three hours.
The acting in the film is phenomenal. Killers of the Flower Moon is some of the best work we’ve seen from De Niro, DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, and Jesse Plemons, with short but sweet supporting roles from Brendan Fraser, John Lithgow, and newcomer Tommy Schultz (who steals his scenes near the end of the film). The only aspect of the film that’s really holding it back, is the lengthy runtime.
While it’s easy to lose track of some of the lesser characters in the movie, the overall plot is not difficult to follow. It’s intriguing to watch this story unfold and learn about what really happened to the Osage Indians. However, there’s nothing about Killers of the Flower Moon that justifies a three-and-a-half-hour runtime. If Scorsese felt he needed all that time, it would’ve been better produced as a series instead of such a lengthy film.
From our perspective, if you cut Killers of the Flower Moon down to a more manageable two to two and a half hours, you wouldn’t lose anything of real significance, and the audience would be much more engaged. As it stands, while the film is still one of the best of the year, there’s no doubt there will be a generational audience divide (despite being on Apple TV+). Many people will not want to sit through the runtime of the film, and while they will be missing out, we can’t blame them for that decision.
About Killers of the Flower Moon
Synopsis: Members of the Osage tribe in the United States are murdered under mysterious circumstances in the 1920s, sparking a major F.B.I. investigation.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Eric Roth, Martin Scorsese, David Grann
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser
Runtime: 3 Hours, 26 Minutes
Releases: October 20, 2023
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.