“A man is not a man if he doesn’t spend time with his family.” Likewise, a film critic is not a proper film critic if he doesn’t pay attention to the details of a movie—if he doesn’t learn to understand the different film genres. And the same can be said about aspiring film makers like me. Speaking of which, this movie was a 1972 crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. And it is generally considered one of the greatest movies ever made with only Casablanca and Citizen Kane rivaling it. But the Godfather had, by far, the best cast. For instance, the movie starred Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone with James Caan, John Cazale, Al Pacino, and Talia Shire as Vito’s children Santino, Fredo, Michael, and Connie, as well as Robert Duvall as his adopted son (and Family lawyer) Tom Hagen. In addition, it starred Diane Keaton as Michael’s girlfriend (and later wife) Kay and Gianni Russo as Connie’s husband Carlo. Lastly, the film featured Richard S. Castellano as Peter Clemenza as a caporegime for the Corleone family (who does several hits for them over the course of the film).
In the beginning, the movie started off with a happy occasion. It started with marriage of Connie Corleone and her groom, Carlo Rizzi. And at the time, Vito Corleone is busy offering favors for those that are willing to ask. Shortly afterwards, a local heroin dealer approaches Vito about letting him use the law enforcement as protection. But Vito turned him down, realizing that the government would not support him if he dug his hands in to narcotics. This led to one of his top enforcers being executed by a rival family and Vito being gunned down in the street; though, he survived. Afterwards, Michael discovers that the police protection had been taken away from his bed-ridden father and he decides to do something about it. Essentially, he decided to kill both the guy he believed responsible and the police captain in the guy’s pocket. He fled the country shortly afterwards, where he met a young woman in Italy and got married to her. Meanwhile, Santino (better known as Sonny) discovered that Connie’s husband Carlo had been beating her. As a result, Sonny found the other guy and gave him a beating in the street—threatening to kill him if he ever laid a hand on Connie again. In response Carlo did just that, but it was a trap. Sonny was gunned down at a tollbooth. Also—back in Italy—Michael heard about it and was about to return but his car exploded with his wife inside. He returned soon after and proposed to Kay, also taking control of the family business (when Vito retired for the most part). Unfortunately, Vito would die of old age while playing with Michael’s son—giving Michael control of the family. And in the process, this gave Michael the freedom to do what he pleased with the family.
But what’s more to be said about the Godfather. The movie earned its classic status by being as close to perfect as a film can get. Everything went in the film’s favor, everything from the fantastic direction of Coppola to tremendous acting from the stellar cast (especially Pacino and Brando). Pacino, in particular, gave an outstanding performance that actually seemed to rival Coppola’s directing. I mean, throughout the course of the film, he went from being an innocent, baby-faced, war hero that wanted nothing to do with the family business to a ruthless crime boss that wanted nothing more than to handle the family business—and gain revenge for the shootings of both his father and brother. In addition, as he changed, his face seemed to darken, making him seem older and more tortured without him even having to say a word. Also, the outstanding score of Nino Rota is worth mentioning. I swear it may be one of the best scores I’ve ever heard in a film. Classical and Opera are definitely the types of music that should be used in gangster films, especially ones that deal with the Italian mafia.
In the end, I can’t recommend this movie enough. It really was one of the best movies ever made. Just don’t expect a fast paced movie. It was really quite slow. But then again, that’s the difference between crime thrillers and crime dramas. Crime thrillers are relatively fast paced and—while they tend to have great stories—tend to focus more on pacing than anything. Meanwhile, crime dramas tend to be more slow-paced and focus more on storytelling. And the Godfather did an amazing job with that.