Esteban Gonzalez’s review published on Letterboxd:
¨Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.¨
Coppola´s (or should I say Puzo`s) The Godfather Part II is considered by many as the best sequel of all time, and some even consider it to be better than the original. In my opinion it is not as good as the first part, but there is no denying this is a great film nonetheless. Coppola did a great job with the direction once again, and has created a timeless film that movie fans go back to time after time. There are several things he did well with this film. First of all he took a completely different approach towards romanticizing the Corleone`s. In the first film we were attracted to Vito for his strong family beliefs and loyalty to his friends, in this film we see how Michael completely begins to lose control of his family and friends. Michael, who I admired in the first film, has become so blind in his lust for power that he losses the strong values his father had taught him. He has grown cold, distant, and even goes as far as to hitting his wife (something Vito would never have dreamed of doing). The parallel story of young Vito and how he became a Don also works really well as it is told in flashbacks during Michael`s present reign as Don. This story serves as a reminder of how distant Michael has become from what his father wanted of him. Part II is more of a nostalgic movie as we see the decline in the once strong and united Corleone family, and Nino Rota`s score is a perfect example of that. The final scenes of the film only confirm this sentiment. The performance from the cast is as equally as brilliant as it was from the first, and Gordon Willis`s cinematography is also equally impressive with its dark scenes that help set the mood of the film.
The Godfather Part II continues where the first one left off with Michael (Al Pacino) as head of the Corleone family and Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) as his personal adviser and lawyer. They are living in Nevada now and running the gambling business in that state during the late 50`s. While we follow the present storyline, Coppola introduces a series of flashbacks beginning all the way back in 1901 following the early life of Vito (Oreste Baldini) in Sicily. VitoÂ´s father, brother, and mother (in that specific order) have been killed by Don Ciccio (Giuseppe Sillato), but Vito is able to escape to New York. The film later jumps forward to 1917 where Vito (Robert De Niro) is making a living working as a clerk for a small store in New York. The movie jumps back and forth between both stories. On the one hand you have Michael trying to expand his empire travelling to Miami and Cuba, meeting with Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), a successful Jewish businessman, who Michael isn`t sure he can trust. On the meantime he has problems back home with his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), problems with Nevada Senator Pat Geary (G. D. Spradlin), and problems in New York with Frankie Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo), Clemenza`s replacement and friend of the family. After an attack on his life Michael isn`t sure who is after him (or maybe he is and we don`t know it). On the other hand, the other story continues to follow young Vito as he meets Clemenza (Bruno Kirby) and Tessio (John Aprea) and begins his imminent rise to becoming the Don.
Marlon Brando was a huge part of the success of the first film, but Coppola, along with Puzo, did a great job introducing new characters to the story that contributed to the success of the sequel. Michael V. Gazzo as Frankie and Lee Strasberg as Roth were great in this film and gave it a fresh new look. Another contributing factor was the addition of the flashbacks because Robert de Niro was the right man to play young Vito. His Oscar winning performance was outstanding and he just stood out in every scene he was in. Al Pacino continued with his transformation in the first film, and now he portrayed a much darker and colder Michael. He didn`t have to say anything and we already knew what he was feeling. There are several memorable scenes in which he speaks louder with his facial expressions than he does with his words. The opening scene in Nevada where the family is reunited celebrating Michael`s son`s First Communion is reminiscent of Connie`s wedding scene in the first Godfather, and the same thing can be said of several other scenes as the final one. The sequel serves as a nostalgic memory of what the Corleone`s once were (or at least what Coppola wanted us to think of them in the first romantic movie), it is much darker, but it still works and compliments the first part really well. The Godfather Part II is not better than the original, but it is still a masterpiece.