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The Godfather (1972) (Classic Film Review)

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather has to do with the life of the Italian mafia family leader Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and the slow ascent of his non-mafia son Michael (Al Pacino) to eventual, reluctant head of the family amidst a war between the varying crime families.

PLOT

The film focuses on the life of Corleone family and especially Don Vito Corleone (Brando), who is the leader of the Italian mafia that rules the region of Brooklyn, New York. After his refusal to support the other four Italian families’ plan of selling drugs, his life is endangered and a new vendetta by his elder son Sonny (James Caan) begins. Meanwhile, the other Corleone son, Michael (Pacino), who was against the family’s way of living and was living a conventional life away from corruption, going to university, and trying to date a normal, protestent anglo girl (Diane Keaton) uninvolved in the world of organized crime, is back for the sake of his father’s honor when another crime family tries to kill Vito.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting details was the presence of the religious mysteries throughout the movie. First and foremost the film begins with its setting being the marriage of Don Corleano’s daughter Connie (Talia Shire) and later we see another member of the family getting married, while there is also a funeral and a baptism towards the end.

The film is overwhelming in a sense that during the three hours many events happen that make you feel like you have binged an entire season of a series in one day, but it remains appealing till the end, even for viewers who might feel that the genre is not their style and that is exactly because the script is so well written and structured.

CHARACTERS

  • Don Vito Corleone is the head of an Italian mafia  Corleone family. The leaders of the other mafia families seem to respect his opinion and generally he is always by the side of the people who he considers as friends so as to help them out with difficult issues. He appears to be mature and sophisticated in terms of the tactics he uses in the game and reckless in revenge.
  • Sonny is the eldest son of Don Vito Corleone, who is very spontaneous and prone to violence. He is always there to stand up for the family, like in one case when he attacks his sister’s husband for abusing her while pregnant. However, it is obvious he lacks a smart way of thinking and he is unable to think what will happen to the family’s future. The feud that he began endangered many lives, led to the loss of human life and caused financial problems.
  • Michael is the son of Don Vito Corleone and the only member that was not a part of the mafia business, in fact refusing to follow this lifestyle. However, when his father’s life is endangered, he decides to be by the side of the Corleones and take a major part in the blood feud. His character goes on a complete shift, which emphasizes the importance of family values in Italian tradition, with the example of being a godfather which has another dimension. We see a guy which was idealistic and wanted to differentiate himself from the rest of the relatives to end up being the head of Corleanos in charge of new expeditions against his enemies.

Marlon Brandon in The Godfather (1972)
Marlon Brando in The Godfather (1972)

ACTING

Generally performances were exceptional with Marlon Brando’s acting being iconic in every sense. The role of the patriarch of this mafia family was tailored to him. At the start I was not really sure why everyone was enthusiastic with Al Pacino, but as I saw a change in the character he played, the internal battles during his transformation and the results, I have to admit he was amazing in the role of Michael. The rest of the cast did a very good job as well, like James Caan and Lenny Montana (as Luca Brasi). I also enjoyed Al Pacino’s and Simonetta Stefanelli’s (as Apollonia) chemistry.

DIRECTION

In terms of direction it was carefully done by Francis Ford Coppola who did a great work, in the sense that he managed to convey the unnerving feeling of living in a mafia family. My favorite moment is when Michael is about to take one of the most important decisions about the family’s future and he is tortured by fear and uneasiness for some seconds, with sound direction playing an important role.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Cinematography took a lot of the costume design of the era and the aesthetic of some religious ceremonies into consideration. Lighting during meetings among mafia members is mostly dim and many scenes are dark with brown and other earth tones being the prevalent color.

END

The end feels like a circle to me and that is mostly because the film ends in a similar way it started; there is a big change as far as the wedding of the beginning of the movie is concerned and towards the end there is the mystery of baptism with a new godfather, signifying a new era, as if we were back to square one.

The Godfather was originally released to theaters 24 March 1972 (USA)


4.6 / 5 TheaterByte Rating
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Paramount Pictures | Alfran ProductionsStudios & Distributors
RRating Certificate
USACountry(S)
English | Italian | LatinLanguage
175 mins.Run Time
1.85:1Aspect Ratio
Francis Ford CoppolaDirector(s)
Mario Puzo (based on the novel by, screenplay by) | Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay by)Writer(s)
24 March 1972 (USA)Original Release Date
The Film
Plot
Character -- Lead
Character -- Supporting
Directing
Cinematography
Summary
Francis Ford Coppola's epic crime drama based on the Mario Puzo novel follows the story of the aging mafia godfather Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) who must turn over his underworld empire to his reluctant younger son Michael (Al Pacino) in the midst of a crime family war.
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