Martin Scorsese's Killers Of The Flower Moon Screened At Cannes, See What Critics Are Saying About The Leonardo DiCaprio-Led Film

Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in Killers of the Flower Moon
(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Martin Scorsese, the legendary filmmaker behind classics like Goodfellas andTaxi Driver is back for his 26th narrative feature directing effort, Killers of the Flower Moon. Scorsese’s latest film had its glitzy premiere at Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, and it received a nine-minute standing ovation from its first big crowd. But what exactly did critics think about the Leonardo DiCaprio-led upcoming book adaptation? Well, we now have our answer on that front.

The 80-year-old filmmaker has a rather squeaky clean reputation when it comes to critical reception of his work. Pair that with acclaimed actors and frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, do we have a winner this time around? Overall, the movie’s first reviews are praising Killers of the Flower Moon. Let’s start with Tomris Laffly’s words via The Wrap

DiCaprio’s performance is titanic here in a role that asks a lot of him. Thanks to his commitment to the layers of Ernest, you buy the character both as a money-crazed, murderous and power-hungry pawn of Hale’s and someone who actually did fall in love with his wife once. That dichotomy is everywhere in DiCaprio’s acting and guilty body language; it’s even in his hairdo that swiftly loses its silly middle-part in due course and becomes a menacingly slick and subtle side-sweep.

It sounds like Leonardo DiCaprio might as well be up for another Academy Award at next year’s Oscars considering the actor is definitely a standout as Ernest Burkhart, a real person who was a figure in the Osage murders that happened in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. Tomris Laffly singled out the actor for giving a nuanced performance, especially in terms of the dynamic created between Ernest and his Native American wife, Mollie, played by Lily Gladstone. The Atlantic’s David Sims also applauded Leonardo DiCaprio among other cast members. In his words: 

De Niro is magnificently unsettling in the film—it might be the best work he’s done with Scorsese since Goodfellas—but the emotional powerhouses are DiCaprio and Gladstone. Their characters’ romance embodies the evil yet engrossing tragedy of the Osage murders far better than a procedural crime film ever could.

Robert De Niro plays William Hale, a convicted murderer and the uncle of DiCaprio’s Ernest. Hale conspired to kill several Osage Native Americans at the time for their oil headrights, as the novel’s author (who visited the set and was “overwhelmed” by it) wrote about in the true crime novel of the same name. In terms of how Killers of the Flower Moon handles its delicate subject matter, Deadline writer Pete Hammond had this to say: 

Scorsese, with an authentic cast in which Native Americans have more than 40 speaking parts (not to mention countless extras), changes things up on an epic scale — everything about this movie is big — and attempts to bury the transgressions of Hollywood’s shaky past in telling these kinds of stories. Killers of the Flower Moon is a landmark motion picture achievement, if only for the care and handling of how it tells the story of the Osage Nation.

Seems like a lot of cinema lovers are really digging the crime drama thus far. However, Therese Lacson wrote on Collider that she felt like there wasn't enough focus place on the movie's Native American characters. In her words: 

I have to wonder how this story would have been written and directed in the hands of a Native American director. It certainly wouldn't have focused so much of the runtime on Ernest and Bill. The other Indigenous characters beyond Mollie don't have distinct personalities or true development. It's a disappointing aspect of Killers that sticks out after sitting through the full 206 minutes. While I question some decisions Scorsese made with Killers, there's no doubt that this film is a triumph for its leading cast.

That’s right, Killers of the Flower Moon is over three hours. If you’re a fan of Martin Scorsese, whose last movie The Irishman was four minutes longer, that's probably not a surprise. Let’s cap things off with a quote from The Hollywood Reporter’s  David Rooney, who spoke more on the runtime. 

[T]he three-and-a-half-hour running time is fully justified in an escalating tragedy that never loosens its grip — a sordid illustration of historical erasure with echoes in today’s bitterly divisive political gamesmanship… there’s a different, more chilling feel to the reign of terror depicted here, a trail of slaughter that weighs heavily on the heart and mind at every step. There’s also a suggestion of a filmmaker reflecting on guilt and atonement, a notion strengthened by a strategic — and unexpectedly moving — cameo from the director.

As mentioned Martin Scorsese rarely disappoints, and this latest outing seems to be another solid cinematic outing for him. He produced the movie and co-wrote the script and, on top of that, he's assembled a skilled cast. Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro are joined by Jesse Plemons, Brendan Fraser, John Lithgow and more. It'll be a little while before audiences will actually get to feast their eyes on the movie and, if these reviews are any indication, the wait will be worth it.

You can check out the Killers of the Flower Moon trailer right now, but as far as access to Martin Scorsese’s epic western goes, the movie is set to be released in theaters on October 6 as part of the schedule of 2023 new movie releases, and it'll eventually be available to stream using an Apple TV+ subscription.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.