The Godfather (1972)
Reviewed on 2006 December 9
I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite movie, but The Godfather would definitely be in the running. From the haunting opening chords of its theme song and first four words of gripping dialogue to the ending scene, it had me hooked the first time I saw it.
The Godfather follows a powerful New York crime family from the 1940s through its rebirth in the 1950s. Marlon Brando was made to play Don Vito Corleone, the patriarch of the family. The story is fascinating and so are the characters. Don Vito is especially complex. He may be a mafia warlord, but he’s also human. One of my favorite bits is at the beginning, while he’s cuddling a pet cat as he promises to brutally avenge a friend. It’s a small touch but it says a lot about the man.
The Don grooms his sons to take over the family business — playboy Fredo (John Cazale), hothead Sonny (James Caan), and his adopted son Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). Vito’s heart and brains worked in perfect tandem here. He raised the orphaned Tom as his own son and Tom grew up to be a warhorse lawyer for the family. Youngest son Michael (Al Pacino) is a decorated soldier and the most clear-headed of the sons, but Vito doesn’t want him dirtying his hands alongside his brothers. Besides, Michael has a shot at a political career, and a Judge Corleone or Senator Corleone in the family could be a powerful weapon. Michael doesnt have much interest in following his father’s footsteps until serious trouble arises with a rival crime family.
Coppola had numerous fights with the studio to make the movie his way, and any movie lover should be thankful he won. Puzo’s novel was good, but Coppola created an epic. The acting and camera work are outstanding and the music fits perfectly. If you’re going to get the DVD it’s worthwhile to get the Godfather box set with all the extras. Once you’ve watched it as a movie, you can listen to Coppola’s commentary. Some cable channels chronologically splice The Godfather and its non-linear sequel together into a day-long marathon. It’s wonderful, but watch this one in its original form first.
Four chocolate morsels and a shot of grappa.