Written by: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay), Mario Puzo (novel)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton
My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) assumes control of his family's organized crime syndicate from his aging father Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the Godfather.
Is this the greatest movie ever made? Yes.
It's the epitome of film. It does everything a movie should while exploring an unknown world. It's expansive & sprawling, creating riveting characters with a smart script, and the dialog is sharp.
We delve into this world of crime and it feels real because it focuses on the characters. It's a family drama with high stakes.
There's a reason it's become ingrained in popular culture. It presents some of the best anti-heroes ever to grace the screen and nearly all the lines of dialog are worth quoting.
From the story to the acting and directing, it doesn't miss a beat. It's incredible.
I had the privilege of seeing this in the theater last week. From the very first scene it grabs you. This opens with a close up of a funeral director beseeching Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) for retribution. The camera dollies out as we get a better picture of what's going on. It's the Don's daughter's wedding and he's granting requests. It's a fantastic scene that conveys his importance even if we don't know why he's important.
This movie is very deliberate. There isn't a lot of action but the dialog is froth with tension. Many scenes are very dark, with low light, deep shadows, and pitch black backgrounds. The first few scenes contrast the dark business in Vito's office with the bright and sunny wedding festivities.
We also see how important Michael (Al Pacino) is to his father Vito. While Michael has brought his girlfriend with him to meet his family, he seems cold towards her. Michael is a bit of a mystery as we never quite know what he's thinking. He's much more ruthless than his father we later learn, and his coldness towards Kay (Diane Keaton) in the beginning is only amplified later.
He's very different from his father who was a gentleman's gangster. Michael wants to win at any cost. He's cold and calculated. I wonder if marrying Kay was just a front. He never seemed in love with her, and refuses to say those words to her. Kay was someone that would believe him and she was easy to marry. He tells her she's naive, and she certainly is.
He has no problems lying directly to her face. Even the viewer doesn't know when Michael's telling the truth. When he says the family will be completely legitimate in five years, I have a hard time buying that.
Michael starts as the college graduate army hero. Vito wanted him to become a doctor, but Michael enters the family business. He has an aptitude for it. When he's at the hospital visiting his father he foils an assassination attempt. Another visitor that helped Michael, Enzo, his hands are shaking uncontrollably at the brush with death. Michael is calm and collected. While it may have been inevitable that Michael would end up in organized crime, this event was the major push. A police captain breaks Michael's jaw at the hospital.
Michael is vindictive, plotting to kill the captain under the guise of protecting the family. How can killing not be personal? Sure it may be done for monetary reasons, but there is a fine line between business and greed. Michael wants revenge and he gets it.
While Michael tells Sonny his revenge is not personal it's just business, it's definitely personal.
All of the dialog is quotable. "It's not personal, it's business." The entire first scene of the movie is worth quoting. It's great dialog delivered by great actors. I could keep quoting, but I doubt I'd ever stop.
"I'll make him an offer he can't refuse." The movie explains what that means when Michael tells Kay about his family and his father's violent methods. He says it's not him, and poor Kay believes him. We know that Don Corleone is influential, and this provides the reason why. When we hear that line again, we know what it really means.
The last montage is so well crafted. Michael attends the baptism of his god son. Those scenes are interspersed with his men killing all of his foes. The priest asks Michael if he renounces evil and he says he does as murders he orchestrated occur.
So many scenes are standout, that I can't pick just one favorite. In the last scene Michael has become the Don. Kay, distraught over Connie's allegations that Michael had her husband killed, asks Michael if he had any involvement. Michael briefly loses his temper before reassuring her and telling her he had no part. The door closes to his office and Kay is shut out literally and figuratively.
My only criticism would be the slapstick violence. It's obviously stage violence with punches not connecting when Sonny fights Carlo, but I can't hold that against this movie.