From Owen Gleiberman‘s “Is Leonardo DiCaprio Playing a Dumb Hick, a Pitiless Sociopath…or a Muddle?,” posted on 10.29:

“In Killers of the Flower Moon, Leo’s Ernest Burkhart feels less like a character of dark or even tragic impulses than like a man who, in any given scene, is what the film needs him to be.

“When he’s asked to do the ultimate dark deed — to add poison to the insulin shots his wife is taking — he carries out the task with such methodical thoughtlessness that instead of the heart of darkness opening up before us, we may feel like we’re seeing the heart of darkness closed off. Our connection to Ernest as a character should be deepening, but instead we’re on the outside looking in. Can a man slow-kill the wife he loves, without a shrug, all because he’s a dunce yokel following orders?

“There’s a disorienting lack of background to much of what takes place in Killers of the Flower Moon. Like how Robert DeNiro’s William Hale brought this scheme of organized murder into being. How Hale himself, a public friend and benefactor of the Osage, evolved into a genocidal terrorist is never even addressed — his terse heartlessness is presented as a fait accompli. And Ernest Burkhart’s compliance in the scheme is presented with the same quality of rote objectivity. It’s as if they’ve all been doing this their whole lives.

“The film is scrupulously true to the terrible facts of the Osage murders. Yet the answer to the ‘why?’ of how the Reign of Terror happened — that these men were heartless racists — is an accurate answer that still doesn’t always feel like a dramatically full answer.

“As we watch Mollie waste away, Lily Gladstone acts with a sorrowful bewilderment that haunts us, but the fact is that Killers of the Flower Moon is a movie that asks us to spend three-and-a-half hours in the shoes of her affectless deceptive scoundrel of a husband, who by the end we may feel we understand less than we did at the beginning.”