Director: Francis Ford Coppola
This is a film about a man and his destiny. A film about how your family can overwhelm you. A film about how business and personal life sometimes cross over. Oh, and it’s also about gangsters. In fact, it’s all that at the same time. We meet Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), one of the Mob bosses ruling New York in the forties. He has so much power that he doesn’t even need to raise his voice to convince people. People serve him voluntarily, even though they know that what they might get from the Godfather will require them to give back even more. As the film begins, the Don’s daughter is getting married as her father is asked for various favors. People know he’s got countless connections, and they want him to get involved everywhere from Hollywood to Vegas. But what matters the most is the Family, especially the Don’s sons. There’s Sonny (James Caan), the hot tempered loudmouth who works by his side, Fredo (John Cazale), who’s kind of a pushover, and Michael (Al Pacino), who isn’t interested in the family business. Yet events beyond his control will force him to get involved and eventually follow in his father’s steps…
One thing that might strike you about the film is the way it’s both glamorized and the exact opposite thing at the same time. I felt that the Mob was portrayed as a mythic organization where life is good, with the whole family spirit and honor code, but then again, you get these characters who really seem to be bored of all the violence and mayhem. I guess most people were more fascinated than appalled by this universe because the film has become one of the most beloved American classics. It’s truly a great picture, with an involving story, sophisticated direction, gorgeous cinematography and one of the all time most iconic scores, courtesy of Nino Rota. I love the epic nature of the story, with its large cast of characters always trying to one-up each other, often leading to memorable mob hit scenes (the baptism sequence comes to mind), and the film manages to remain fascinating for three hours, which is no small feat.
As for the acting performances, they are simply brilliant. Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone is such a grandiose, iconic character that it barely fits the screen. The grey hair, the sorrow look, the classy mustache, the cotton-balled jowls, the throaty voice… It’s really one of these performances that you can’t forget. I love the way the Don controls people while making them think that he’s doing them a favour, and his final scene is superb. He really deserved that Oscar, even though the lead role is really Michael Corleone, as skilfully portrayed by Al Pacino, in his first major role. It’s a restrained but evocative performance. It’s fascinating to witness how a do-gooder US Marine veteran becomes a cold, calculating mobster. From the “I believe in America” opening speech to the final shot, in which it’s made clear that Michael has become exactly what he rejected at the beginning of the picture, this is flawless filmmaking. “The Godfather” is one of the great American movies.