Classic Film Review: The Godfather (1972)

And the Oscar Goes to:

The Godfather, 1972

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Diane Keaton

 

If you ask any respectable film reviewing company about their list of top films, sooner or later you’ll come across Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, a crime film about Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), who is the Don of the Corleone crime family, over a span of ten years as he slowly relinquishes power and his son, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), takes over. Spanning a lengthy three hours, The Godfather manages to carefully place several pieces of the crime war as well as the family’s shifting of leadership in a manner which doesn’t become boring, which is mightily impressive.

Firstly, let’s get the negatives of the film out the way with (because, quite frankly, there aren’t too many negatives): there are times where the lighting isn’t too great, making it difficult to spot which family member is talking to whom, and, on the topic of family members, the cast list is quite sizeable and various bosses and friends and family members from all different families pop in and out and there are times, especially considering they all wear very similar attire, that it can be a bit confusing trying to remember where we last saw a particular person. And, lastly, it speaks a lot in Italian, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I didn’t watch with subtitles, meaning large parts of what I felt was quite important information went unknown because they shifted to Italian for a lengthy period of conversation.

But those little tweaks aside, it is a very good crime film; with a steady story that didn’t necessarily revolve around one gang versus another; The Godfather explores themes of friendship, family, betrayal and personal growth (especially with Michael, who is initially pushed away from the family business only to become its ruthless leader). It has enough emotional depth (with members of each side of the crime scene being murdered by one another) and some brilliant moments, such as the iconic horse’s head being in the bed as a man wakes. It doesn’t have as much shooting and action as The Departed, and there is one fight scene in particular which is terrible in its choreography (one fist he throws so obviously misses that it becomes quite humorous), but both The Godfather and The Departed focus on different aspects of the crime syndicate so it’s unfair to make comparisons other than the similarity in their genre.

As noted earlier it has a large cast, and, try as you might, it is borderline-impossible to find a fault with the acting, Al Pacino and Marlon Brando especially. Everyone plays their role to perfection and each offers something unique to their character that they as an actor play out. Brando’s stoic crime boss was made all the better when he’s forced to show emotion, and the journey of Michael is only improved with a commanding performance from Pacino to show it to us.

I found very few errors in this film, and even those I found weren’t incredibly off-putting, in what was a very entertaining crime thriller. Choosing to follow the family over the gang war was a very effective choice as it made us invested in them, so when stuff happens later on in the movie we’re actually invested in the outcome.

 

Plot: * * * *

Acting: * * * * *

Writing: * * * *

Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * * *

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