This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Max Bushell’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"If anything in this life is certain, if history's taught us anything, it's that you can kill anyone."
Perfect from beginning to end. The story is one of tragedy and downfall. This is the start of Michael's downfall in life. The flashbacks to young Vito allows us to compare how the family started to the state it's in now. It makes us ask: Who is responsible for the downfall? Is Michael like his father, or the opposite?
The acting is realistic and gripping. There's not one frame of this movie I didn't believe. A second viewing has confirmed to me why The Godfather: Part II is one of the greatest films of all time. Maybe even that title isn't enough to give it justice. The direction is flawless. The film asks you to put the puzzle pieces together yourself, whilst also observing the characters’ choices and decisions. Even things such as subtle looks on the characters’ faces can foreshadow what will happen next. When Anthony is taken from Fredo as they're about to go fishing, if you look close enough, you can see a look of dread on Fredo's face for a few seconds as him and Al begin to drive the boat.
There are so many tense and strong scenes. I think one of the most important ones is Michael's confrontation with Kay. After being told his child was aborted, the rage on his face is frightening. This is where Michael begins to go downhill. It's the first time he truly explodes in anger; something his father wouldn't approve of. As Vito Corleone once said: "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." Michael closes his family out of his life, that being Kay and his brother Fredo. That is why Michael could never live up to the respect his father had.
I've always found something so unsettling with the last scene, in which it cuts back to a time when the Corleone family was in their prime; when the family was together. It's unsettling because when you compare it to what has happened in this movie, it almost shows the calm before the storm. It also shows that Michael was always different from his brothers. He didn't want to be in the business, and yet he was chosen. We see his interaction with his brothers. Sonny disrespects Michael due to his choices in life and disinterest in the family business, but Fredo congratulates Michael on his decision to go out to war. Sonny was chaotic and aggressive, Fredo was kind and caring, and Michael was independent and thought logically.
Fredo's death is handled perfectly, as it is timed with the death of the rest of Michael's enemies. The music creates a sense of unease and dread. We constantly cut back to Michael's other enemies, but Fredo is killed last, because Michael is conflicted. Is Fredo still a brother to him, or an enemy? This movie asks questions. It makes us question the characters' morals and choices throughout the film, yet we can do nothing but observe. That is The Godfather: Part II. It's a question of morals and choices.