Dwilder’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Godfather Part II is a stunning sequel to the phenomenal original feature.
In terms of storytelling this sequel picks up the themes of the original and follows Michael Corleone’s descent into corruption even further as he goes from ordering deaths to turning on his own family. Coppola brilliantly reinforces the theme of the Immigrants view of the American dream in the Early Twentieth century becoming corrupted as individuals begin to abuse the power they gain through illegal means. This theme is gloriously explores across the epic runtime whilst the picture still functions as an absorbing crime epic. Indeed, in its lengthy runtime it even finds time to beautifully explore the origins of Don Corleone and his journey from Italy to America in the early 1900’s and how he pursued a life of crime and became Godfather and why he did this. All of this is absorbingly told and the story only becomes messy when it comes to Cuba. This whole sequence feels slightly unnecessary and also is quite badly handled. But given how tight the rest of this picture is this is amazingly a minor quibble.
Francis Ford Coppola also does a phenomenal job directing this incredible picture. The sequences featuring the young Don Corleone are a particular highlight here thanks to breathtaking cinematography from Gordon Willis which brings to life this time period with outstanding visual poetry. Coppola also shows incredible restraint and patience in building events to their epic conclusion that displays the skill of silent masters. Indeed, I immediately thought of DW Griffith when watching this as the scale of this feature is potentially only comparable to a master such as Griffith.
The casting is also brilliant here and the ensemble do an amazing job within this stylish epic. Returning cast members Robert Duvall, John Cazale and in particular the chillingly cold hearted Al Pacino do a brilliant job and Pacino could’ve deserved an Academy Award here. The new members of the cast including Robert DeNiro, Lee Strasberg and Talia Shire also do brilliant work here. It’s a fantastic ensemble cast and their work here is nothing short of incredible.
To conclude, The Godfather Part II is a worthy follow up to the magnificent original and indeed to an extent builds upon it. Although I don’t find The Godfather films to be as perfect as some and I prefer Coppola’s The Conversation to both there is no denying the first two Godfathers are breathtakingly epic and endlessly watchable features.