The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II ★★★★½

I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!

Part 2 to Coppola's epic crime drama is less visually evocative than its predecessor. The Rembrandt-esque hues are traded here for a less painterly, more naturalistic palette. There's inspiration to be found, here, for sure; Coppola shifts us from the grimy streets of New York to Las Vegas and Havana and Sicily. But, where Part 2 truly stands apart from it's predecessor is in narrative structure.

The festering themes of the inevitability and the hereditary nature of spiritual and moral decay are brought into more stark relief. Coppola flips back and forth between the present timeline and Vito's rise as a young immigrant, orphaned by the Sicilian mafia a half-globe away. We see his burgeoning influence and charisma as a mafioso and, later, as a Godfather develop. He makes missteps at first, grounding the character who, previously, occupied such rarefied air. Flashing forward to Michael's fall as Godfather, he further alienates Kay. And though, thankfully, Diane Keaton has more to do this go around, her insistence on staying is under-explored. Michael mostly ignores her, zipping from one hemisphere to the other, balancing the many illicit business ventures of the Corleone family, only stopping to pay attention when she aborts her pregnancy, a boy, to break the cycle.

This all, mostly, works. As we slip back and forth, passages from the father illuminate moments yet to come for the son. And, it only highlights and reinforces the latent themes of gravitational inevitability. I like this picture better than the first - most do - but I can't help but admire how simply and effectively Puzo and Coppola achieve what they did in Part 1, when compared against the sprawl and narrative invention of Part 2. I don't think either reach the narrative or cinematographic heights of Coppola's true masterwork: Apocalypse Now which released a half-decade later, but Part 2 remains a 4.5/5.

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