Featuring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons
Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Mystery, Thriller, Western
Director: Martin Scorsese
In Cinemas: 20th October 2023
The movie is set in the 1920s and introduces us to our central character, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has returned from the war to live with Uncle William Hale (Robert De Niro) in Osage County, Oklahoma. Ernest tries to fit in with the community by earning money by driving his cab when he meets his future wife and member of the Osage tribe, Mollie (Lily Gladstone). When oil is discovered on tribal land in Osage, members of her tribe are murdered under mysterious circumstances, and a major F.B.I investigation involving J. Edgar Hoover begins to commence.
The opening scene beautifully captures a tribal ritual, which effortlessly carries that essence and quality of peace and tranquillity and explores the importance of quietness and stillness. Scorsese subtly promotes this throughout the movie; there is a lovely moment later in the film where Ernest and Mollie talk during a loud and powerful storm while inside their home for the evening. The rain is pouring heavily as it hits the house, creating a loud commotion outside. Ernest becomes frustrated by the noise and begins to close and cover the open window when Mollie stops him and encourages him to listen to the storm. Unphased by this, Ernest starts to initiate a conversation with the already content Mollie, to which she again expresses her wishes and explains the importance of being quiet during the storm. The two then sit silently while gazing out the window; these gorgeous elements are so simple but effective, as if they are made to go unnoticed.
The sound design, in general, is spectacular and imaginative, maximising the required audience response during different situations. Slow, gentle tapping on an indigenous drum can be heard while recapping about recent murders in the town, which almost resembles a heartbeat and instantly creates that gritty tension. When Ernest arrives in the town by train, you can practically feel the chaos, the noise of the large gathering of people at the station, that busy and manic hustle and bustle; instead of visually looking at the screen, you begin to feel and connect with the storyline and characters through the use of sound. That slow building and rise of tenseness as the plot maliciously thickens is always present, as our senses are constantly challenged. It is almost like we are being toyed with using that simplistic approach to capturing our attention when we can physically feel and expect something sinister to happen.
Scorsese, along with Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, continuously and elegantly boasts and presents the culture and traditions of the Osage Tribe, always candidly and visually attractive with big, vibrant colours. Identity plays a significant role in establishing emotions and concerns among the tribe and families as we get introduced to different characters. The use of communication through words and prominence is utterly mesmerising. When the community become anxious and frightened about the recent killings among their people, a gathering takes place with members of the tribe. Speeches are passionately made through dialogue that are so lengthy, engaging and essential that we agree and nearly associate with every spoken word. Heritage and tradition are among the many topics that are proudly and emotionally expressed; It’s almost like one final attempt or plea for solace. The white people constantly challenge and question their beliefs and practices; in one scene, Ernest mocks Mollie for using traditional Indian healing medicine and stating that it is not real.
The calibre and quality of the actor’s performances are beyond exceptional and are instantly rememberable and applaudable. Robert De Niro gives such a chilling and discomforting display of his character that it becomes unsettling to watch whenever he is on screen. He is astonishing in every scene, perfectly playing and disguising his many emotional masks when presented with complex situations associated with his obsession with wealth and greed. Leonardo DiCaprio again gives a captivating showing, and there is always that high-powered and compelling chemistry between the two actors during cogent, persuaded and intimidating conversations. There are parts in this movie where each man’s self-worth and identity are tested and questioned, much like the Osage tribe’s members. In one scene, Ernest feels untouchable and mighty, but when confronted, he slowly crumbles and is left deflated; in contrast, the tribal community becomes more potent when challenged and refuses to be defeated. Lily Gladstone performs outstandingly as Ernest’s wife and never does not trust and believe in her husband; her love for him is wholesome and authentic. She suffers from endless grief and pain for most of the movie but never seems to lose that hope of determination, which presents a strong and committed woman in desperation for vanity.
When the FBI begin the investigation, we can see the shift and change in the actions and behaviours of others when they are confronted. A brilliant technique used during confessional interviews involving a door is so clever and practical that these small details are used so frequently throughout the movie that they become noticeable and effective. Martin Scorsese presents his latest offering with no restraints and does not hold back when exploring daring themes of suffering and anguish. He promotes realism and presents the facts that become unbearable to comprehend and leave a lasting impression on us while pondering on the treatment of others in the past. Scorsese beautifully and lightly celebrates culture and life among the Osage tribe by positively using them as something inspiring and bright during times of pain and lost hope. This film is a story; there is never anything fabricated or absurd, and the level of creativity is endless and lasts until we reach the final and concluding scene, which is unexpected. But leaves a meticulous, lasting impression on a stunning, staggering modern-day masterpiece.