Reviews of The Godfather
Displaying all 9 reviews
Rather than concentrating on everything that is great about The Godfather, a much easier way for me to judge its quality is on what is bad about it. Almost every film has something that I don’t like about it, but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change anything about The Godfather. There is nothing weak about it and nothing that stands out as bad. That’s why it gets 5 out of 5.
This is one of those films that made me wonder why I hadn’t seen it earlier. The acting from everyone involved is great, Marlon Brando comes across perfectly as the head of the family, and James Caan and Al Pacino are excellent as his sons. The soundtrack by Nino Rota is also very memorable, bringing back memories of the film every time I hear it. The plot has to be excellent for it to get 5 out of 5, and it is, it’s far from predictable and the film is the definition of a great epic.
The film is pretty shocking in the way every death occurs almost instantaneously, and as it spans ten years so many different things happen and every minute of it is great entertainment. It’s a well-made and entertaining film that is only the first part of a trilogy, but it stands on its own as a wonderful film in its own right. If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? This was one acclaimed film that didn’t disappoint.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
The Godfather (1972) has become a historic relic within our culture. It is a milestone, being one of the most essential, if not, enduring films ever to be shown on the silver screen. A film that has become a major influence on my career. But I think what the story truly values is how humanism can be blended with the most ruthless; it really shows a sympathetic portrayal over a corrupt family of mobsters. The thematic structures within the saga have to do with Sicilian pride and how the rise to power can deliberately change one’s own sense of morality. The structure of the saga provokes the conflict between loyalty and love accompanied by betrayal and vengeful violence. The scene with the severed head of the horse definitely reveals the true colors of the Corleone’s fierceness as horses in most central cultures represent natural life.
Mario Puzo, who intentionally wrote the novel and screenplay, I think was trying to document a view of Modern American history and give an analytical study of organized crime, working as a distinct metaphor. It was a breakthrough that transformed the classic gangster film into a drama that shows a man’s, let alone, a family’s rise and downfall by tampering with corrupt power. Many who had read the novel after it was published in 1969 assumed that Puzo was associated with the mafia. However, Puzo based the novel off the events during his early life in Little Italy, which was controlled by Italian mobsters and incidentally was put into the second installment of the saga. They are stories that convey warm personal family affairs, but they are also about desires to fix a world filled with injustices, if one were to look at it from Corleone’s perspective.
The films are quite reminiscent to classic Greek and Roman theatrical tales that result in tragedy, betrayal, and vengeance. A key scene is when Michael Corleone’s character initially transforms and he kills Sollozzo and the corrupt police captain. The sound of the ongoing train in the background signifies Michael’s ordeal, as he tried to lead a peaceful life but ends up in the family business. The Sicilian vengeance ultimately changes him. The story also explores the impressionistic tradition of the Italian culture, through religion, the colors of the countryside, family gatherings, hypocrisy in religion, romance, food, the list goes on.
Francis Ford Coppola, who would later gain critical claim for the direction, sought out the film series as an orchestrated symphony. One may even the interpret The Godfather as an opera, as well as a historical commentary on sociological violence within the nation. It was an ensemble breakthrough for new-coming actors and actresses as well, especially for such names as Al Pacino, James Caan, John Cazale, and Diane Keaton. Paramount Studios at the time was opposed to the idea of Pacino playing the second lead for the film, not even considering his use of serious method acting. But what ultimately tied the film together was Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone. Brando tremendously captured a turn-of-the-century Sicilian crime lord as an allusion to the pursuit of the American dream that is achieved through crime, capitalism, and profit. Both characters revolve around the central idea of family loyalty that is juxtaposed with bloody vengeance.
Coppola looked at the original book as a chronicle of one man’s journey to hope and salvation played out in blood, human pride, and greed. Although, half of the book starts out from Vito Corleone’s roots, Coppola would return to these with The Godfather: Part II (1974) that completed the storyline and history of the Corleone family. Coppola wanted to justify how a family could cope with inhuman affairs. Due to his family heritage, Coppola allowed himself to extend the Italian behavior.
The structure and texture of The Godfather was indelible. It is such a marvel of cinematography, photographed extremely well by Gordon Willis, who, I think, is one of the most underrated artists in the motion picture business. The look of the film had almost a brassy, yellowish color, not just because these films were period pieces (since most period films back in the day used different assortments of filters to enhance the emotion) but also to capture the colors of Italian culture and romance. Another key characteristic from Coppola’s and Willis’ technique within the film saga is the use of underexposed light and use of high contrast shadow as a way of exploring the unnatural habitat of the crime world. In portions of the first film, Brando’s eyes are deliberately covered in shadow so that a viewer knows that this particular character is a deep emotional thought, not even realizing what was going on his head, but knowing he is a mysterious figure.
Some of the editing techniques, performed by Walter Murch, were inspired by Sergei Eisenstein’s use of editing to tell a story. Coppola even homages Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) within the Baptism sequence. The Baptism is definitely one of the greatest montages created by any editor. In a sense, it plays out in sheer irony (nearly as a devil’s worship) and at the same time the scene brilliantly crosscuts back and forth from the church to locations throughout the different areas of gangland murders are filmed very meticulously. With controlled scrutiny, Michael orchestrates a mass killing of rival gang-leaders of the Five Families to settle the family business in cold blood, which crosscuts with Michael’s role as godfather for his baby niece.
Of course, the music score of The Godfather series remains the most recognizable, like the music compositions of John Williams. Nino Rota, one of the great film composers, captures a nostalgic portrait that emphasizes the passion and mercifulness of all these characters, but like the job of the cinematography, the score captures the emotional wave, personifying the romance of the Italian country.
The final scene in the film is marvelous. Michael, now the new head of the Corleone family, replacing his father’s shadow. It an image he once sought to escape, as he hoped to not meddle in the family business. A derailment is shown between him and his non-Italian wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), as one of Michael’s henchman closes the door on her. Michael practically shuts her view, clearly defining the two opposing worlds. He becomes a different person. The continuation concludes in Part II, only this time it shows Michael’s trade of power over humanity.
If novels have a cinematic counterpart and there is such a thing as The Great American Movie, The Godfather can take the prize with little dispute. It is in many ways the greatest offering America has given to the movies. Its scope is impressive, the storytelling solid, and the acting impeccable. What makes it so powerful is that it is a classical tragedy in the Greek sense. Michael Corleone’s fall into the world of organized crime is an inevitable but heartbreaking conclusion. It is a quintessentially American story involving the saga of immigration, the hope of achieving the American Dream, and the despair when it eludes you.
Casting a mournful spell upon the opening music is a single horn. Significantly, the first spoken words are “I believe in America.” Does the Godfather have faith in America? The answer is both yes and no. It has allowed him to build his empire, but in old age he has come to realize the cost. Don Corleone values loyalty above all else (“Why did you go to the police? Why didn’t you come to me first?”).
The early cinematography establishes the evil and sense of entrapment in the world of organized crime. The Corleone household is almost all darkness, only a few drops of color are allowed to escape. The most significant of these come in the form of oranges, as oranges are markers of looming death in The Godfather. But the authenticity of The Godfather extends beyond its depiction of the underworld. It is a film that understands Italian-American culture very well. Perhaps it took an Italian-American director like Francis Ford Coppola to bring such attention to detail, from the money collection during the wedding to the “Stella Luna” dances and mannerism. But the characters are not stereotypes and The Godfather is more a historical saga and not an exploitation of Italian-Americans.
This makes the work of the non-Italian cast members all the more remarkable. Marlon Brando is amazing as Don Corleone, the aged crime boss and James Caan is excellent as Sonny, the hothead of the Corleone family. As such, it would make Vito sad to see Michael, the good son, become the next Don instead of Sonny, who is so violent that he has already fallen from innocence. In between them is Fredo, the dopey, insecure middle son played by John Cazale, an excellent actor lost much too soon.
The movie ultimately belongs to Michael, however, and Al Pacino is awesome in the part. Then again, an awesome performance from Pacino is a given. His Michael Corleone may be the most enigmatic character in cinema. Why Pacino wasn’t nominated for Best Leading Actor is one of the top blunders the Academy owes an explanation for.
He returns home from the war with a fiancé in hand. Kay (Diane Keaton) is kind of the audience surrogate. Like us, she is an outsider to this world and Michael has to explain the inner workings to her. Look at the way Michael’s eyes glaze over with sadness when he says, “That’s my family, Kay”. At this point he is ashamed of them and wants the family business to become legitimate.
But things are changing fast in the Corleone family. One indication is how little time Vito spends at his daughter’s wedding. This could mean two things. One, the nature of his job keeps him too far away from moments of happiness or, he’s already being phased out of the lavish empire he created.
A clash of generations is emerging. Don Vito doesn’t want to deal in narcotics. He thinks them unethical and he carries his own moral code. Michael isn’t even involved in the early negotiations with the Five Families. He’s an outsider to this world. Sonny, however, thinks the venture is a good idea since it can rake in a lot of dough. He is supposed to be the next Don, so his opinion carries a lot of weight. In between is the Don’s adopted, non-Italian son Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). He is an interesting character and we are never quite sure how to take him. Of course, he was involved in the notorious horse-head scene, which isn’t so much a necessity in the plot as a sly “stick-it-to-the-man” shot at sleazy movie executives.
Not all the other mob families share Vito’s moral code and the Don gets shot while buying oranges in an attempted execution by a rival family that wants to deal in drugs. This is the cataclysmic incident that sets the plot forward. There is a nice shot when Michael is on the phone talking to Sonny soon after the shooting. The wall of the phone booth separates him and Kay, we only see a distorted image of her through the frosty pane, symbolizing the rift between them and how Kay (indeed, all women), are outsiders in the world of organized crime.
The rival gang wanted Vito dead so Sonny, who is open to dealing drugs, can become Don, preventing a gang war. But at this point the film sharpens its depiction of organized crime and how much it has consumed the lives of the Corleones. Even after Vito is shot, all they can talk about is business dealings. Michael and Kay grow increasingly silent with each other and Paulie, the sick bodyguard that failed to protect Don Vito, is shot in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. The corruption of the American Dream has come full circle.
The hospital scene is shot like a horror movie and appropriately so. Visiting his father, Michael doesn’t know if dangers lurk around the corner. But the tragedy begins when Michael tells his unresponsive father, “I’m with you now”. Vito’s smile has a hint of remorse in it, mixed with pride.
Sonny is already acting like the next Don, but Michael is on a crash course and has a brutal fall from innocence when he arranges a barroom meeting with Sollozzo (Al Lettieri), the drug kingpin, and McCluskey (Sterling Hayden), the crooked police captain in agreement with Sollozzo’s gang. The meeting ends in a shootout in which Michael murders both men and wins the respect of the family.
What’s surprising is how little action there is in the movie. It’s mostly talking and a lot of waiting. Clearly, it was Coppola’s intention to take a more mature and realistic look at mob culture. The scene preceding the shootout finds the men silently eating Chinese food, and then arguing over the logistics of the killing. Coppola makes effective use of sound when building his scenes. The train presaging the bar shooting is parallel to all the thoughts rushing through Michael’s head. As in Leone’s movies, the actual violence is brief and brutal, while the build-up is long.
Michael still believes that he has a shot at life outside of the mob. “I don’t want my father to be bothered anymore,” he says. True, he says this to throw McCluskey and Sollozzo off the track, but he is also still clinging on to the hope of making his family respectable.
Upon his return home, we get a sense of how beloved Don Vito is by men, women, and children. It’s interesting how the gangsters are all family men, with the exception of Don Vito’s son-in-law Carlo (Gianni Russo), an abusive creep. They are good with kids and, yet, so brutal outside of the family. Don Vito is no exception. Look at how devastated he looks when he learns that it was Michael who killed Sollozzo. Characterizing this observation is the line “We don’t discuss business at the table”. Indeed, there is a dichotomy of family and work. For mobsters, they are two irreconcilable spheres. There are other lines not crossed. Don Vito is separated from his sons in that he commands respect without violence but, rather, with regality.
But after killing Sollozzo and McCluskey, Michael forms an unusual connection with his father. He not only begins a new life hiding out in Sicily, but becomes the inverse of Vito by returning to the home country, to the place where his family’s legacy of violence originated and continues. Arriving in the town of Corleone, which bares his family name, Michael sees that all of the men have been killed in vendetta wars. Death, however, comes by more crudely in the hills of Sicily as the hoods lack the resources of the New York crime families. Michael, however, begins to think that he can never return home and essentially stars a new life in Sicily, like his father did in America. He can’t escape his roots.
An often overlooked virtue of The Godfather is its treatment of women, especially Kay, Connie, and Apollonia, the young woman Michael marries in Sicily. In different ways, all of them are destroyed by the men around them. Coppola’s gravest indictment of mob culture may well be that a place in which men have so much unchecked power is detrimental to women.
The first significant death in the movie is that of Sonny at the tollbooths. It’s so gruesome that it kills off any romanticism inferred about a life of crime. Don Vito knows he has to terminate the gang war, and for the first time, beyond the talks of respect and family honor, we see just how vulnerable a man he truly is. But the damage is done, as is proven in the masterful scene that follows.
As impressive as the cross-cutting during the baptism juxtaposition with the ordered killings, the focus is truly on Michael as, in a sense, he is the one being baptized, both literally and figuratively. The film closes with the end of an era. Don Corleone spends the last few minutes of his life playing with his grandson, extending hope for the next generation resigned to having lost the battle to save Michael. He failed to find the American Dream in a saga of Shakespearean proportions.
Hollywood had been working toward The Godfather for decades. Gangster movies were one of its pillars since the dawn of the talkies. The Godfather was the final stage of their evolution, expanding and utilizing everything the gangster film had picked up on throughout the years. In its final form, it jump started the second Golden Age of Hollywood and became one of the undisputed masterpieces of the film. Also, in an instance of art imitating life, it made the Coppola family a Hollywood dynasty.
Ultimately, The Godfather is one of the saddest American movies. How else are we to take the ending, but by observing that Don Vito’s final days are strangely poignant, melancholy, and resentful about a poorly spent life?
Saying that The Godfather is a landmark in movies is a massive understatement to say the least. It’s often considered the greatest film of all-time, and for good reason.
Coppola’s fierce, angry, violent mob movie is a classic. It’s filled with one of the greatest casts assembled ever, with Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and James Caan providing powerhouse perfromances.
The writing is intelligent and charasmatic throughout the giant duration of almost three hours, and your eyes will be firmly glued to the screen for the full duration.
Many gangster movies have been made throughout the years, good and bad, but The Godfather is definitely the example of a great gangster movie.
The story is as absorbing and attractive as it the cinematography or even the comedic moments which provide the unique balance between serious and hilarious.
Each scene is as memorable as the last, and even if you haven’t seen the movie you will recognise a strong percentage of the movie directly from all the homages made to it over the years. If i were to say this was a masterpiece, i’d be correct.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
Perfection in every way. It is a visually captivating film with a grand story to accompany it. Marlon Brando gave a flawless performance as Don Corleone, resulting in a sympathetic crime lord. Al Pacino gave just as strong of a performance, giving you a clear sense of downfall from a seemingly moralistic character into a ruthless businessman. The story covers everything from family values to revenge. It is perhaps the most epic narrative in cinema.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
The Godfather has to be, next to The Big Lebowski, the most easily rewatchable film I know of. I can pop this into the DVD player at any point in the film and instantly be drawn into the life of the Corleone family. So much has been said about this pinnacle of film. Brando, Pacino, Caan, Duvall, Keaton, Cazale and Shire all are pitch-perfect for their respective parts. Coppola creates the world of the 1940’s with perfection. Every scene of the film is drenched in atmosphere and a reserved but ominous tone that suits the tragic goings on between the characters. And while it takes a few viewings to really understand all that is going on plotwise, the magnetic quality of all the actors involved really attracts your attention with each successive scene. The Godfather is a perfect example of a classic film. One that, while it has it’s technical flaws, is forgiven because of what it has achieved and who it has touched. There simply aren’t many movies like this one these days.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
The Godfather is my favorite film. There are at least six things that stand out for me. First, it is a great story that can be taken literally or as an allegory due to some of the underlying metaphorical scenes throughout the film. Second, the cinematography is fantastic and really allows the viewer to immerse oneself into the plot. Third, the acting is incredible and features a great cast, one of the best of the past forty years.
Fourth, the film almost reminds me of a home movie due to the intimacy of some of the scenes. This partially goes back to the cinematography. Fifth, character development and the family angle of this film provide insights that would not be possible without a strong screen play, direction and emphasis on the human side of the characters, despite their reprehensibility. Sixth, I think the pacing and editing of the film provide just the right amount of tension without being overdone or underplayed for a crime drama that is more a critique about family honor and the fall of man than about crime.
- Currently 5.0/5 Stars.
This film is similar to the later day Marlon Brandon himself: overrated, bloated in scale, and filled with mumbling musings of men attempting to make mountains out of molehills with their dreams and glamorized visions of the American mafia. It does have some moments of greatness, but the overall work feels forced and myth-like, making gods out of criminals and crimes, there are some attempts to show the humanity of the characters, but repeat viewings show the tedious length and slow pacing do not fare well over the years. Not recommended for people seeking for something more than entertainment.
- Currently 1.0/5 Stars.
Even though I have put that I want to see it, I already have. This is one of the best gangster movies of all time. It might have been a little bit long, but the acting and look of it was amazing. I actually had to stop the movie half way, because I felt that if I kept watching it, that I would want to join the mafia. It was spectacular, and when I heard the history on it, I was shocked. Everyone should see this movie.