zotwot’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Godfather is a film which all fans of cinema talk about regularly. It's not the easiest of films to pick up here in the UK- it's absent from the two largest streaming services for a start. Over the last year or two I've been in many an establishment that sells second-hand DVDs or blu-rays with The Godfather one of the films on my list to find but it was never there. In the end I had to resort to downloading it.
But then there was the worry. The Godfather is often described as one of the greatest films ever made, if not the greatest. The term "indisputably" is regularly added to that phrase. But what if I was the one person in the world who didn't like it much- would Letterboxd refuse to let me remain a Pro member?
Thankfully, it turns out The Godfather is excellent. Marlon Brando is wonderful as mafia boss and patriarch Vito Corleone, the titular godfather. What's fascinating about this character is the way he has absolute respect from those around him yet we never see him actually do anything sinister. It's far more about the threat than the actual action and Brando is superb in this role- a lesser actor wouldn't have been able to make him such an awe-inspiring figure.
Of course, the film isn't really about Vito. We follow the journey of his son Michael (Al Pacino) who at the beginning of the film is separate from the rest of the family, a war hero keen to make his own, legal way in the world. As things become difficult for the family he ends up becoming more and more involved until he rises up to become Vito's successor. The character goes on a real journey and it's interesting to watch how Pacino transforms him from a reluctant member of the family to it's ruthless leader.
Francis Ford Coppola opted not to use helicopters and rigs here and instead aimed for the film to be a moving tableau. This really helps to add to the feeling of being inside the family, as if you've got an invisibility cloak which lets you watch the goings-on of Italian-American crime families. It feels very true to the Sicilian culture which creates a wonderful atmosphere.
I also think the score is superb. Incidental music is well used to set the scene but the score by Nino Rosa is beautiful, especially the love theme used during the Sicily scenes which is one of my favourtie pieces of music of all time. As well as being wonderful to have going into your ears, it adds to the Italian atmosphere of the film too. The score was almost rejected for being "too highbrow" and I sort of see why Paramount executives thought that- fortunately Coppola stuck to his guns and it was included.
This is a film where every single aspect of production came together perfectly and that's why The Godfather (and indeed it's sequel) is unique in being a film that was massively commercially successful and is undeniably fantastic.