This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
riss’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Now THAT is a movie. Wait scratch that, this is an experience. Yes, it maybe slow paced, but this is what is needed for this film, as it’s a character study. The violence isn’t important in this film, but it’s used to show the power of the mafia, however, the main focus of this film, is family. It’s the family relationships that drive this film forward.
I watched this in my drama class, as this is the film my drama teacher really wanted us to see, and I’m so glad I was able to really concentrate on everything about this film, and also share the experience with others. The discussions we had and the atmosphere in the room really made this better as it felt like a cinema. The shocking moments did feel more truly unexpected and we were able to share this experience with each other.
What can I say about The Godfather that hasn’t been said before? It’s literally perfect. I know that many people these days won’t be able to keep their attention span focused that long or appreciate powerful cinema, but this is so mature and timeless. A true classic that is so incredibly realistic. This film is three hours long, but trust me, it goes by so quickly and you do become very immersed in this movie. You want to know what’s coming next. Every scene is so in depth and a great example of how to build and develop characters.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, this mob drama, based on Mario Puzo's novel of the same name, focuses on the powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). When the don's youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly joins the Mafia, he becomes involved in the inevitable cycle of violence and betrayal. Although Michael tries to maintain a normal relationship with his wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), he is drawn deeper into the family business.
The most interesting aspect about this plot was that there isn’t direct violence. Yes, there are some scenes, but you only hear this mafia talk about violence or saying, “I’m gonna make him an offer he won’t refuse.” This film focuses on the mafia’s relationships, as family is the most important thing to them. This is shown here, by the massive weddings and the why Brando’s character interacts with his children and grandchildren. Mostly when we see him interact with Michael when Vito realises that he will be involved in the family business.
As I said, this slowly builds. Especially with the character development, more specifically, Mike’s. This is mostly evident when the car drives past and he’s calm and not shaking, whilst the guy he’s with is filled with anxiety. Mike is now adapting to this life, even though he was against it, but he then kills someone, runs to Italy and marries someone whilst his girlfriend is waiting for him at home. The sequel to this does show how Michael is like his father, but this film shows that too. It’s more at the end, however, as the wife is shut out when the door is slowly closed on her. She was told initially that he doesn’t get involved with his family or that sort of stuff, but now she’s being lied to and runs this whole organisation.
Two more things I’d like to point out is that this film does show that you don’t know what happens behind closed doors. This is due to Connie’s relationship with her new husband, but also, the whole idea of the mafia. But the unexpected moments where perfectly timed. I did know when the explosion in Italy was about to happen, due to the build up and music, however, this was done so well. The shooting where Sonny got tricked was so shocking and twist that was needed to make this film pick up its pace. The Godfather has a great balance of slow pacing and the faster, more intense scenes.
My two small criticisms here is the awful and slightly distracting punching scene between Sonny and Connie’s husband, as the punches looked fake plus the bad reactions just made me laugh. Also, when Connie’s husband kicked the car window, it looked like it was made of plastic. These are two small details that can be easily looked over as this was made in the 70’s and choreographed fighting scenes plus breakaway glass have come such a long way.
This score is intense and beautifully composed by Nino Rota. There was one small moment when Michael’s girlfriend asks him when he would be back and this is ironic, as there is a love song in the background, and their relationship seems strained. But the music allows you to becomes fully submerged into this screenplay, you can tell when something intense is going to happen. Two of my favourite scenes with the film score is when Michael is at the hospital as I was so focused on the screen, I jumped at when the nurse popped in. Also, the music intensifies as Michael is finding the gun. I felt my breath and heart intensify as I was unsure if he was going to do it or not. I just absolutely loved what this film score allowed me to feel.
This films whole cinematography is absolutely beautiful and captures the dark New York aesthetic perfectly, but the main part I must focus on is when Mike finds out his father was shot. He phones in a telephone box and already his girlfriend is on the outside looking in, and this is before he gets into the business. This ties in perfectly with the whole scene at the end, when she is properly shut out.
The ensemble is definitely amazing. Especially, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Dianne Keaton. But, as you all know, Marlon Brando overpowers this screen with his perfect performance. But first, let me talk about Al Pacino. He truly shows the audience his character development. He took his time explaining his character’s changing emotions, but also beliefs and thought process. This is mostly evident at the car driving past moment, as Pacino didn’t go all in at this point, but this was so effective. We could see where his character ended up, and this should only continue in the next movie.
Marlon Brando makes this his own, it’s phenomenal. You can really tell all of his character’s internal thoughts, and he just makes acting look so easy. It’s unfair how talented he really is. This is mostly prominent when Vito is so proud of Michael as he starts to get into the business, and this only changes when he finds out about the shooting in the restaurant. His face drops and looks so clearly disappointed. The moment that broke me was when he found out about Sonny’s death. His eyes where so filled with grief but also looked so numb, it made me emotional. This mob boss was humanised, he was shown as a family man and a business owner. His death scene showed this very well, as he was looking after his grandson and died peacefully at home. It was beautiful, and thanks to Brando’s performance, this was even more beautiful and heartbreaking.
Overall, perfect. What else can I say? I can only praise this film - and I’m not saying this because it’s so critically acclaimed, there’s a reason why this is such a Hollywood triumph.