The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II

My mom and I were talking about how incredible Pacino's eye-work is here. The man can go big, of course, and he has his requisite blowups in this (I've said it before and I'll say it again, there's not a better yeller in the business), but as Michael he is so restrained; it's such a subtle performance. He communicates so much just with his eyes, flitting them back and forth, eyelids falling slowly as he scans the room. We get all we need to know by the way he looks at people when they're talking (see every scene between him and Fredo). What a brilliant performance.

These two movies are so behemothic in size and scope (Part II especially) that it's difficult to make a definitive comparison between the two (it's also unnecessary of course). But I will say that this one had an even greater emotional impact on me. The flashbacks (which seem to be the biggest issue for those that prefer the first––I found them both brilliant and essential) both align and contrast Michael and Vito. Like Michael, Vito didn't seek out his life of crime, he turned to it after being forced out of his job by the local boss. Vito, like Michael did, understood the realities the world around him, and he did what he needed to do. He killed, but always out of necessity or justice. As we watch Michael slide deeper into his dark cavern of paranoid distrust and corruption we are reminded of Vito's compassion, his sincere belief in the importance of family, and that Michael seems to have lost touch with those values. To Vito, trust is everything, and by the end of Part II Michael has lost trust even in sweet Fredo. The last flashback is so brutally heartbreaking, and the final images, of Michael all alone in his empty estate, tell us everything. The lively family that runs to greet Vito has all but disintegrated under Michael's command. He has alienated all of his loved ones, and even murdered the brother who supported him all those years ago. His old desire to be independent from his family is realized in the most crushingly brutal way possible.

Poor Fredo :(