Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Film and Plot Synopsis

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by David Grann. After oil is discovered on Native American land in Osage County, Oklahoma, tribal members become the wealthiest people per capita in the United States. The influx of cash draws greedy and unscrupulous men looking to steal the wealth. Former soldier Ernest Burkhart returns to the area to work for his wealthy uncle, William King Hale, one of the men looking to line his own pockets. Both men become involved in a plot to eliminate many of the Osage people who die under continually suspicious circumstances, despite the protests of the Osage people for somebody to stop it.

‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)Near the beginning of the 20th century in Osage County, Oklahoma, a group of Osage Nation elders conduct a ceremony mourning their descendants’ assimilation into White American society. At the conclusion of the ceremony, they bury a ceremonial pipe. Wandering through a field of “flower moon” blooms, several Osage members find oil gushing up from the ground. As a result, the tribe becomes exceptionally wealthy, as it retains mineral rights to the land and members share in oil-lease revenues. However, the law requires white court-appointed legal guardians to manage full and half-blood tribal members’ money under the assumption that they are incompetent.

Years later in 1919, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns from World War I to live with his younger brother Byron (Scott Shepherd) and their wealthy uncle William King Hale (Robert De Niro). Hale is a cattle rancher and a reserve deputy sheriff who maintains a friendly relationship with the Osage tribal members, including speaking their language and providing gifts. However, Hale’s friendliness is a ruse to increase his own wealth and influence. Ernest and Byron commit armed robbery against Osage members on a regular basis, as well as committing other various crimes for Hale.

Ernest eventually meets Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone) while he is working his day job as a cab driver. Mollie is an Osage member whose family owns oil headrights. Ernest begins wooing Mollie and eventually a romance develops. After some time, Ernest and Mollie get married in a ceremony that mixes both of the couple’s heritages, Roman Catholic and Osage. In the following years, Ernest and Mollie have three children together.

During the same time, Hale secretly orders the contract killings of multiple wealthy Osage, sometimes using Ernest as a middleman to organize the hit. Hale explains to Ernest that the elimination of more of Mollie’s family will increase his wife’s share that Ernest will potentially inherit as father of Mollie’s children. Mollie is diabetic and has severe health issues. Mollie’s elderly mother Lizzie (Tantoo Cardinal) also has similar health issues. After Mollie’s sister Minnie (Jillian Dion) dies of a mysterious illness, Hale orders Byron to kill Mollie’s other sister, Anna (Cara Jade Myers). Byron shoots Anna through the head. When the murder goes unsolved, Lizzie and the Osage council blame the reservation’s white residents and urge the tribe to fight back. The tribe also seeks to secure intervention from the federal government.

Can you find the wolves in this picture? Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio)

After the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, the Osage tribe becomes concerned that the same thing may happen in their community. Not long after, Lizzie passes away from her various illnesses. Hale orders Ernest to kill Mollie’s last remaining sister, Reta (JaNae Collins), and her white husband Bill Smith (Jason Isbell). Ernest retains the services of a known bomber, Acie Kirby (Pete Yorn), to commit the murder. However, Kirby uses too much explosive and destroys not only Reta’s home but damages many other homes in the neighborhood, including Ernest and Mollie’s. The murders draw much public attention, and Hale punishes Ernest’s ineptitude by paddling him inside a Masonic Temple. Hale uses his influence to ensure that the local sheriff and judges make little to no progress while conducting the investigation. The tribe dispatches a trusted local white oilman, Barney McBride (Brent Langdon), to Washington D.C. to ask for the Bureau of Investigation (B.O.I.) to investigate the numerous unsolved murders of tribal members in Osage. However, McBride is killed on the streets of Washington. Mollie hires a private detective, William J. Burns (Gary Basaraba), to investigate her sisters’ deaths. However, Burns is attacked by Ernest and Byron who run him off the reservation.

After McBride’s death, the Osage tribe sends a delegation to Washington D.C. to meet with President Calvin Coolidge and ask for him to send help. Despite her illness, Mollie decides to accompany the delegation. As the last surviving member of her family, Mollie is the sole owner of her family’s headrights. Hale is displeased with Mollie’s actions and orders Ernest to provide his wife insulin to slow her down. As a result, Mollie’s condition worsens and becomes bed ridden. Suspicious that the insulin is poisoned, Ernest ingests some of the insulin which makes him temporarily ill. Despite this knowledge, Ernest continues to provide Mollie with her tainted medication.

However, Mollie’s lobbying is successful and the BOI dispatch Agent Thomas Bruce White Sr. (Jesse Plemons) and several other officers to investigate the unsolved murders. Agent White quickly recognizes the truth about what is going on. Hale begins eliminating the henchmen and witnesses who could be called to testify against him. Nevertheless, Hale and Ernest are arrested. Two agents are sent to question Mollie and find her near death from the poisoning. She is rushed to a hospital where doctors treat her and save her life. Agent White solicits a confession from Ernest and gets him to agree to testify against Hale.

During a court hearing, Hale’s attorney, W. S. Hamilton (Brendan Fraser) argues that Ernest is also his client and insinuates that Ernest’s confession and agreement to testify are the result of torture and coercion by the BOI. Ernest recants his confession and his agreement to testify, and he is subsequently charged and placed back into a holding cell. While in custody, Agent Smith informs Ernest that his youngest daughter has died of whooping cough. Ernest changes his mind again and agrees to testify in a hopeless attempt to receive leniency so that he can see his family again. Hale unsuccessfully attempts to have Ernest murdered prior to trial. After his testimony, Mollie meets privately with Ernest. Since Ernest refused to admit to poisoning her, she decides to leave him.

The conclusion of the film plays out in the form of a radio drama portrayed years later. The radio players inform the audience that Ernest and Hale were convicted at trial. Both men received life sentences although both were paroled years later despite the protests of the Osage tribal members. Byron served no prison time due to a hung jury. Mollie divorced Ernest and remarried. She died of diabetes in 1937 at the age of 50. Mollie’s body was buried alongside her parents, sisters, and her daughter. The film closes with an overhead view of a 21st century Osage powwow dancing circle.

Rate the Film!

Our Rating

Paramount Pictures released Killers of the Flower Moon on October 20, 2023. Martin Scorsese directed the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone.

User Rating: 2.9 ( 3 votes)
Show More
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Back to top button
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x