Killers of the Flower Moon premiered for Apple TV+ subscribers on January 12, 2024 (ET) and Jan. 11, 2024 at 9 p.m. (PT). Already available to purchase in Digital 4k UHD, the Apple Studios film will also be released in physical media formats in early 2024 (expected), notably on 4k Blu-ray Disc which provides much higher quality video and audio bitrates than streaming or downloads. For now, though, we have the movie on Apple TV 4k, the platform that provides some of the highest bitrates for streaming content.
Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is a clear nominee for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, and other Oscar categories from the upcoming 96th Academy Awards. Lily Gladstone, who already won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama at the Golden Globes, is likely a frontrunner to receive the Oscar for Best Actress.
A tale of crimes and injustices towards the Osage people of Oklahoma, Killers of the Flower Moon is based on the book of the same name by David Grann published in 2017 by Doubleday. The non-fiction book is a fascinating read that’s made up of historical events arranged in story form. The movie utilizes a non-linear timeline that can be confusing at times but makes the storytelling so much more dynamic.
In the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of Ernest Burkhart, a World War I veteran who moves to Oklahoma to live with his uncle. William King Hale, played by Robert De Niro. Lily Gladstone was cast as Molly Kyle, an Osage person who was granted oil rights along with her family members. White settlers, taking advantage of the Osage, marry and then kill off tribe members to inherit their head rights.
While the book includes much information about the formation of the FBI and the rise of J. Edgar Hoover, the movie concentrates on the relationship between Edgar and Molly and the storm of controversy that surrounds them. The antagonist in the film is King Hale, a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing, who represents other whites taking advantage of the Osage during this historical period.
How does Killers of the Flower Moon look streaming on Apple TV+? As expected, the film offers a quality streaming image with bitrates averaging 24.49Mbps. The contrast ratio is good, but not great in every scene, as some of the imagery is a little bit flat. We’re hoping the color depth and contrast will gain some punch on a future 4k disc. The black-and-white imagery presented in square format on vintage film looks really good on a backlit LED screen where the picture glows, but is not as good when flattened out on a projection screen.
Color depth is good, with a palette close to the theatrical presentations. There is a fairly wide gamut of values in shadow areas (helped by HDR) and some details are retained in the highlight portions. But again, a better HDR source (4k Blu-ray) will probably improve the color depth in highlight areas. Shadow areas are better in some scenes than others. For example, the first interior shot with Ernest and King has good color and sharpness, but black levels get a bit crunched in the shadow areas.
The 4k movie was viewed on a Sony Bravia Dolby Vision 4k TV and Epson LS800 HDR10 4k projector, both streaming from an Apple TV 4k media player where the indicated video peak was 42.14Mbps, the highest we’ve ever seen from a movie or TV show on Apple TV 4k. By the way, this is a 3840 x 1608 image, which means black bars at the top and bottom approximate the movie’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio (with some shots in 1.33:1).
The soundtrack is offered in Dolby Atmos, with surround sound that extends to height positions providing an all-immersive mix in spatial audio environments. Dialogue is crisp and front and center, while never seeming overshadowed by music composition, ambients, or sound effects. The explosion of the house in the second act probably hits the loudest decibels in the film, hitting low frequencies in subwoofers with impact. Surround sound is not superfluous in this movie. One of the better surround sound moments is the scene when Ernest gives Mollie her first ride while an auto race is happening in the town. The wedding between Ernest and Mollie provides some nice ambients combined with music that fades in and out to bring the dialogue to the front. The Golden Globe-nominated soundtrack by Robbie Robertson carries the scene transitions seamlessly, heightening the viewer’s engagement often before cuts.
Summary: If you have Apple TV+ we highly recommend sitting down for this 3-hour film and enjoying every minute. However, having seen Killers of the Flower Moon three times on big theater screens, a 75” TV and even a 100” projection screen at home just doesn’t do the movie justice. This is a film that was made for theaters, and unless you see it that way you’re not experiencing Killers of the Flower Moon the way Scorcese intended. This movie, along with Oppenheimer and Barbie, are the best examples of why movie theaters need to stay alive.
Stay tuned for a 4k Blu-ray review of Killers of the Flower Moon which should score very high in our rankings based on movie, video, audio, and bonus material offerings.