The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II ★★★★★

Looking back on my movie diary it has been almost five years since I saw this, possibly the greatest sequel ever made. During that time I've watched almost 3000 films, but hadn't returned to the Corleone saga until the missus popped it in on Thursday evening.
Much has been made of whether the second chapter of this Italian/American crime family drama is even better than Coppola's original film. Some like the De Niro factor that appears here, others prefer Brando's understated greatness, but to try and separate them seems futile as they both give incredible performances in a multi-layered story as complex as it is compelling. We get part sequel part prequel as the origin story of Don Vito's early life and his rise to power is offset with Michael's own struggles after attempts on his life and double-crossing business partners create mayhem in the inner sanctum of his family. Intrigue is provided with some really complex plot twists which also sees characters from the first film pay the price for their treachery. Casinos, old scores, abortions, separation, even the murders of family members cover most of the Michael Corleone side of the story. De Niro's quiet, methodical Vito though is chilling, but balanced as a man who would do anything for his family. As Michael reiterates constantly, everything he does is for his family, a trait he learned from his father.
Although never sharing screen time, this is still the Pacino and De Niro show. Pacino has a calm but ruthless streak doing all of his business in private and giving very little away. De Niro also impresses with a clinical approach to disposing of Don Fanucci and laying the foundations for his empire to flourish. Again it's storytelling of the highest quality.
Coppola again recreates 1912 New York with that sepia look he used throughout the first film. Havana also bristles with authenticity, but what else did we expect from a master filmmaker. The fifties fashions are expertly recreated for Michael and Kay and the film just captures the look and feel of the times beautifully. The large ensemble cast all help to secure the acting plaudits bestowed on this production. Even further down the cast list the likes of Talia Shire, John Cazale, and Lee Strasberg as Hyman Roth give flawless performances. Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton also continue to play major parts effortlessly but there are some interesting fleeting early parts for the like of Harry Dean Stanton and Danny Aiello.
The Godfather picked up three Oscars, this second installment picked up six, does that make it better? Those were the days when those little statuettes regularly went to the right recipient, but would anyone consider Titanic better than either of the Godfather's because it won eleven?

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