Plot – The ageing patriarch of an organised crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son – The Godfather.
Director – Francis Ford Coppola
Released – 1972
I’m almost afraid to admit that the first time I watched The Godfather, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d been told I would. Constantly names as one of the best movies ever made, I couldn’t help but find is a little long and a tad boring. Luckily, however, I took the chance to revisit the film heralded as a classic of American cinema and now after some re-evaluation, I can safely say I’ve found a newfound appreciation for Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster epic.
Maybe it’s because I’ve recently watched both Gone With The Wind and Lawrence of Arabia, or maybe it’s because I now have a deeper appreciation for what Coppola’s was trying to accomplish, but this time The Godfather didn’t feel anywhere near as slow-paced as I remembered it.
Not only this, but I can now appreciate how revolutionary the movie was for the gangster genre, shaking off its crime noir genre roots, injecting the idea of being a gangster with more menace while keeping the class. This is a different kind of mafia, one seen not as an outsider but within the confinements of the family.
The film also goes to great lengths to show the great sense of honour and respect that the Corleone family share, all of which stems from Don Corleone’s (Brando) belief in doing things the right way. Well, as much as you can when you’re head of a crime family.
Avoiding civilian casualties at all costs and opting not to move into dealing with narcotics, because of the negative effects it has on the community. You learn pretty quickly that with the Corleone’s, family and community come first, with Michael Corleone (Pacino) putting it best when he said to his brother: “never take sides against the family”.
The acting through is absolutely perfect. Marlon Brando delivered possibly the best performance of his career as the ageing patriarch of the family. Delivering his dialogue in a way that power and menace oozes from his soft-spoken voice. It’s memorable, to say the least. Likewise, Al Pacino does an outstanding job, developing from a war hero to the head of the family over the course of the film, learning from his father while establishing his own style as head of the crime-family. Likewise, Pacino already shows the charisma and skills we have now become accustomed to over his varied and illustrious career. Also adding to the great performances, Robert Duvall and James Caan excel in support roles, especially Caan who’s never been better.
The one element of the film that I found hasn’t aged so well is the development of female characters, mostly relegated to items for the men to play with and dump at their pleasure. Michael’s sister, Connie (Talia Shire) seemingly spends most of the time be used as a vent for her husband Carlos’ temper. Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) feels nothing more than a conciliation for Michael after he loses his first wife to a car bomb in Sicily. The saying ‘behind every great man’ certainly doesn’t play out when it comes to The Godfather.
While it’s certainly true that The Godfather changed the face of American cinema, especially that of the gangster flick, but does it still hold up today?. In my opinion, I’d say yes as long as you can get past the dated depiction of women, then you’re in for three hours of excellent acting, great cinematography and possibly the best mafia film ever made.
If you liked: The Irishman, Scarface, Carlito’s Way