REVIEW: The Godfather (1972)

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1972, Paramount Pictures

Director:
Francis Ford Coppola
Producer:
Albert S. Ruddy
Writers:
Mario Puzo (original novel and screenplay)
Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Gordon Willis
Editing:
William Reynolds
Peter Zinner

Cast:
Marlon Brando (Don Vito Corleone)
Al Pacino (Michael Corleone)
James Caan (Santino “Sonny” Corleone)
Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen)
Richard Castellano (Clemenza)
Abe Vigoda (Salvatore Tessio)
John Cazale (Fredo Corleone)
Talia Shire (Connie)
Diane Keaton (Kay Adams)
Richard Conte (Don Barzini)
Al Lettieri (Virgil “The Turk” Solozzo)
John Marley (Jack Woltz)
Al Martino (Johnny Fontaine)
Alex Rocco (Moe Greene)
Gianni Russo (Carlo)

A true American classic about a mafia family, this timeless tale truly showcases some brilliant performances by the cast and hails as an epic film.

For many years, Don Vito Corleone has been a respected Mafia boss who has earned the respect from not only those around him, but even the heads of other families have earned his respect. However, age has caught up to him and he decides it is time to retire and transfer his power. However, when he refutes a deal to work with drug dealer Sollozzo, Don Corleone finds himself the victim of a shooting orchestrated by the man they call “The Turk”.

While elder and hot-headed son Sonny is the one who is in line to become the new Godfather, he lets his ego get the best of him. When youngest son Michael, who has returned from World War II, orchestrates a plan to revenge, he succeeds and must escape to Sicily, where he marries a local woman only to learn that both Sonny had been gunned down as the result of a war between bosses. Upon his return, Michael, who at first never imagined even getting involved in the business, soon finds himself taking charge and sets a plan in motion to make sure the war ends, no matter what it takes.

Based on Mario Puzo’s classic novel, this film set the ground for the modern day gangster film. While there have been many gangster films in the past, notably in the 30’s and 40’s, this film would be the basis for what would be the influence for many of today’s modern day gangster epics as well as being one of the most referenced films today, going as far as the recent Disney hit film Zootopia, where the character of Mr. Big is based on the titular Godfather, Don Vito Corleone.

The major driving force of the film is the cast, with the legendary Marlon Brando leading the way as Don Corleone, who while is impending retirement, must attempt to bring peace between his family and his “family”. While Brando truly makes the most of his screen time as the Don, showing both power and emotion, it is the young Al Pacino who breaks through in what will be one of his most iconic roles, that of youngest son Michael Corleone, who goes from a pacifist who does not want to get involved in the “family business” to finding himself with no other alternative but to become the heir apparent to the “family” while James Caan is just both insane and brings his emotion to the table as the hot-headed middle son Sonny, who lets his temper eventually catch up to him.

Robert Duvall provides great support as the “adopted” brother of the actual family, Tom Hagen, who makes for a good advisor while Diane Keaton makes the most and that is meant with brilliance as the sometimes embittered Kay Adams, who eventually becomes Michael’s wife. John Cazale’s Fredo may be the oldest son, but from his actions, it is clear that he is meant to be more of a sheepish figure rather than a true heir apparent. Talia Shire does quite well as the family’s only daughter Connie, who goes from blushing bride to long suffering wife when her new husband is revealed to be the opposite of what he seems to be in the opening scene, which is in fact, the wedding of Connie and her husband.

The film has some memorable moments, including the result of a Hollywood producer refusing to give a role to Don Corleone’s real godson, a famous singer. Michael’s temporary exile in Sicily is well executed as well as it meshes quite well with the events that are going on in his absence. There are some very violent moments in the film alongside the producer scene, including the violent gunning down on a major character, and the epic climax to the film.

The Godfather is a true modern day epic that is the prototype of the gangster films of today. Brilliant performances from the cast drive the film along with a great script and excellent direction. A definite must-see movie for any major film fan.

WFG RATING: A+

DVD

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2 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Godfather (1972)

  1. Yes, the classics of classics, especially in the crime genre. I agree that the cast is a major drive of the film, but I also think that in this movie everything (scenario, actors, pace, music) just falls into place; the film feels truly complete.

    Like

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