Welcome back to another Film Friday! This week will be a continuation of my three-week series of reviewing all of the films in The Godfather trilogy. This week is The Godfather Part II. Many film critics and film fans say The Godfather Part II is an even better film than the first, and knowing how much I liked the first one, I was eager to continue on my journey and learn more about the Corleone family. Part II is told through two different stories: one that takes place two years after the end of the first film, and one that tells the back-story of Vito Corleone and how he became the Don. Once again the filmmakers and cast take you on a journey of family, loyalty, and deciding between what is right and wrong.
As previously stated, The Godfather Part II is told as two distinct stories. The first story begins in 1901 in Sicily, depicting how Vito Corleone (played this time by Robert DeNiro) came to power. Vito’s father and brother are being ordered to be killed by the local mafia. When his mother goes to confront the mafia, she is shot. Vito is sent to America for his own protection. From there, he begins to gain more power in his neighborhood and eventually vows to go back to Sicily to seek revenge on the people who killed his family. Intertwined throughout this story is the story of Michael Corleone, who is now settling into the role as the new Don of the Corleone family. He realizes the truth about the family business, and knows that his involvement as the leader of the clan is tearing up his own family. Most of all, it is destroying his relationships with the people closest to him, mainly his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), who has never truly agreed with his decision to take over the family business.
Once again, Francis Ford Coppola , who won the Oscar for Best Director, was able to create a masterpiece. The way he effortlessly intertwined the two very different stories was incredible. The story of Vito Corleone made me appreciate the greatness of the first film because you learned more about the motives of his character. I now understood that he had gotten to such a point at the end of his life and career that made him act the way that he did in the first film. It was interesting, because many times you don’t get to see characters’ lives before the film starts. Learning the story in this film helped me to appreciate the Don’s character more, and understand why he was the way he was.
Robert DeNiro was pure genius as the young Vito Corleone. His performance is the thing that legendary performances are made of. He took this character that Marlon Brando had played so memorably and really made it his own. Granted he played him at a different point of his life, but he still retained some of the same mannerisms and speech patterns that Brando did without it seeming like he was copying him. It’s no wonder he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Two other performances that were really strong, especially in the scenes when they were together, were Al Pacino and Diane Keaton. They really advanced their character’s stories from the first film, and I wondered how these two people who were so in love in the first film got to this point. You’re basically seeing their marriage unfold on the screen. The scene where Kay tells the truth about her miscarriage with Michael’s baby was definitely the dramatic highlight of the film. That scene was so poignant and powerful that I watched it twice!
All and all, the hype about this being better than the first Godfather film is definitely true. Once again, solid performances from the cast, beautiful direction by Francis Ford Coppola, and the way the story was told through the two separate plot lines made this film an amazing follow-up to the first. As always I will end my review with a question: based on his actions in the film would you consider Michael Corleone a villain, a hero, or a victim of his circumstances?
Until next time, happy viewing!
7 out of 5 starsThe Godfather Part II (1974) Paramount Pictures R, 200 Minutes