REVIEW: The Godfather Part II (1974)

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1974, Paramount Pictures

Director:
Francis Ford Coppola
Producer:
Francis Ford Coppola
Writers:
Mario Puzo (original novel and screenplay)
Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Gordon Willis
Editing:
Barry Malkin
Richard Marks
Peter Zinner

Cast:
Al Pacino (Michael Corleone)
Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen)
Diane Keaton (Kay Corleone)
Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone)
John Cazale (Fredo Corleone)
Talia Shire (Connie Corleone)
Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth)
Michael V. Gazzo (Frank Pentageli)
G.D. Spradlin (Senator Pat Geary)
Richard Bright (Al Neri)
Bruno Kirby (Young Clemenza)
Francesca De Sapio (Young Mama Corleone)
Morgana King (Mama Corleone)

It is rare that a sequel could be as good as its original but this film would make history as the first sequel to earn the Academy Award for Best Picture, and rightfully so.

In the early 20th Century, a young Sicilian boy named Vito Andolini escaped a hit from a Mafia boss that resulted in the death of both of his parents. Escaping to the United States, specifically Ellis Island in New York, Vito Andolini becomes Vito Corleone. The young Corleone would soon make his mark as the legendary head of a respectable Mafia family, in which four decades later, would be run by his youngest son, Michael.

In the 1950’s, Michael Corleone has been the head of the “family” for nearly a decade. He is given the opportunity to expand his business by collaborating with well-respected businessman Hyman Roth, who has set up shop in Havana, Cuba, as well as in Las Vegas. However, Michael’s thirst for power seems to get the best of him and those involved are soon affected. This results in a series of double crosses and even the new Godfather forced to be questioned by the federal government. Will the power-hungry Michael be able to overcome all odds and at what price will it be done?

This 1974 sequel to the epic original film is based on the novel by Mario Puzo, who returns to write the screenplay with director Francis Ford Coppola, who truly outdoes himself this time around. The idea for this sequel is ingenious: cross cut between the 1950’s, where we see Michael Corleone in full power with the intention to expand the family business along with the beginnings of how this legendary epic began, with the “birth” of the original Godfather, Don Vito Corleone. Like its predecessor, this film would become an influence, notably in the final installment of the Hong Kong trilogy, Infernal Affairs in 2003.

Al Pacino takes the lead in the 1950’s set scenes and once again, shows why he fits the role perfectly once again. In the original film, we saw the transition from pacifist war hero to the eventual head of the family. In this installment, we now see Pacino’s Michael at the height of his power as he intends to expand his business from Vegas to Havana. Much like his father in the original, there tends to be betrayals and double crosses. However, this time around they involve both his family and his “family”, with a very shocking scene that threatens the marriage of Michael to his beloved Kay, played again by Diane Keaton from the ultimate betrayal that is revealed at a New Year’s party.

In the scenes shot in the early 20th Century, we are treated to the origins of the original Godfather himself, Vito Corleone. The film slowly begins to his escape at nine years old to his humble beginnings in New York to his eventual rise to power as one of the heads of the New York mafia. Where Al Pacino broke out in his role of Michael in the original, another Italian-American actor broke out in the role of young Vito Corleone and he rightfully earned the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His name? Robert De Niro. De Niro perfectly brings out the young Vito as he eventually rises to fame while Michael finds his world and attempt to become even more powerful come crumbling down. This brand of opposites highlight the rise and possible fall of the Corleone family and using this juxtaposition of timetables is perfectly done.

The Godfather Part II is a perfectly, perhaps more superior follow-up to the original epic. As a matter of fact, it can be said that this film is even more epic than its original film. Look for a cameo from another member of the family in the final flashback scene.

WFG RATING: A+

DVD

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