A struggle exists in man; that struggle is not always good against evildoers. Humans have always wanted something more than they have. That ‘want’ is something intrinsic to our nature. In the case of Martin Scorsese’s latest epic, Killers of the Flower Moon, there is a certain irony in the use of the word struggle.

‘Good’ versus ‘evil’ will always exist. However, in the case of Mr. Scorsese’s epic story of those who pillaged the wealth generated by a massive oil find by the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, there is a duality in the phrase.

First is the duality of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart, a war hero with a propensity to slur his speech as he looks for his next opportunity in life. Injured during the war, screenwriters Eric Roth and Scorsese paint Burkhart as intelligent, even if he isn’t the sharpest of pencils on the desk. DiCaprio channels his performance by interpreting Billy Bob Thornton’s Karl Childers from Sling Blade. Though the film touches on the injuries Ernest sustained, the story doesn’t entertain those injuries as he meets with his profiteering uncle, Robert De Niro’s William King Hale.

Hale wants what the Osage have earned, and though Ernest doesn’t know it, he becomes an unwitting pawn. Ernest’s role in Killers of the Flower Moon’s trappings is a duality in someone coming to terms with who he is against who he wants to be, a situation that unfolds when he meets the alluring Mollie. Mollie, played by Lily Gladstone, is easily the film’s best role. Gladstone is alluring, so it is easy to understand why, as Mollie, Ernest falls for her.

Second, Scorsese cajoles, pulls, and weaves his characters through a series of murders while masking the real intentions. De Niro’s Hale is dangerous, and DiCaprio is solid as Ernest.

Third, a problem exists within the characters and their goings-on.

This is the struggle of being a film critic. On the one hand, the praises from Cannes earlier this year and the critical reaction for the performances and the characters thus far have set a very high bar for this combined Apple-Paramount release. This fourth duality exists as streaming services float the money for illusory projects while making sure to get as much exposure as possible. Granted, Apple is one of the better streaming services for independent cinema, such as Killers of the Flower Moon.

The challenge is at its vantage point. The novel by David Grann purports to tell the story from the Bureau of Investigation’s point of view, in this case, Agent Tom White’s, as the BOI begins investigating the murders.

White, played by Jesse Plemons, is an exceptionally well-defined character replete with a strong performance. At the time, the BOI, which eventually became the FBI, had far more discretion and power to investigate and prosecute. Scorsese went for broke on that angle, and Plemons is a central figure in a script that really turns the book’s vantage point on its head; this was a struggle that the revised script could not surmount against DiCaprio’s Ernest.

Back to the struggle of reviewing a movie like Killers of the Flower Moon: it is an interesting look at the history of this nation, struggling under the weight of the haves and haves-who-want-more, defining America. Other than Mollie and White, none of the other characters were exciting, yet their motives were, and that’s where the depth in a Scorsese picture comes into play. You are drawn into their situations and the consequences of those situations on the characters.

Similarly, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto lenses the modern Oklahoman countryside with diligence and grace. In the truest sense of the word, Prieto delivers the epic grandeur behind Killers of the Flower Moon. Thelma Schoonmaker, who has edited Scorsese’s other films, weaves the story expertly. Schoonmaker and Scorsese trust one another, which shows as its epic scale flows by.

Killers of the Flower Moon doesn’t need this review, a mixed one at that, to demonstrate its technical prowess. Due to the change in vantage point between the source novel and the script, its fuzzy perspective instills trust in the craft, but not necessarily in the storytelling, bringing me to a potential dilemma on social media – is this Scorsese’s best film to date? No. Is it the best film of the year? Not by a long shot. Is it worthy of the potential accolades generated on its road to Oscar? From a craft and technical perspective, yes. Was it worth $200 million, the cost to make it? Your bladder will most likely dictate that as it hits cinemas and awaits a future release date on Apple TV+.

Of note, Killers of the Flower Moon does not need an intermission. For visual impact, the recommendation is to see it on IMAX, which is an interesting choice, given Oppenheimer‘s success in the format. Both films play long, yet the cinematography alone is worth seeing Killers of the Flower Moon on the giant screen.