The Godfather

The Godfather ★★★★½

After going through a phase of rewatching some of my favourite obscure art-house features I’m back in the realm of familiarity reviewing Francis Ford Coppola’s “greatest film of all time” The Godfather.

It has to be said that The Godfather is a remarkable cinematic achievement. Written by Coppola and Mario Puzo and based on Puzo’s book what is so striking is its intelligence. Taking in many different strands to fill out it’s excessive runtime it is a complex and impressive work. Themes such as familial loyalty, post-War difficulties and honour are explored in great depth and lead to some shocking and violent set-pieces. The Godfather was a huge success at the Box-Office and that’s a remarkable achievement for something that on paper could be quite dull. Instead it’s gripping viewing. 

From a Direction stand-point it is a near perfect achievement. The costumes are beautiful as is the set-design and Coppola’s handling of this epic is masterful. At times due to its length The Godfather is a tad leisurely in its pacing but when it comes to life it really is spectacular. Coppola’s staging of the many memorable deaths is just astonishing. All of them are handled with real style and this perfectly matches the grit and substance of the material.

Another major impressive point of The Godfather is the casting. James Caan’s vivacious portrayal of Sunny Corleone is a career best for him. Robert Duvall is subtly brilliant as Tom Hagen and Al Pacino’s casting is a genius decision (he was unknown at the time). He gives the role of Michael Corleone a steeliness and grit that really helps to sell the developing ruthlessness of the character. But Marlon Brando is the star here in his big comeback performance. His Vito Corleone is statesman like and authoritative. Brando’s characters in the past were always raw and passionate but here he is reserved but also a powerful presence. It is an incredible leading man performance that fills the whole picture even when he’s not on screen.

So yes, The Godfather is a great picture undoubtedly. It may not be the greatest film of all time as some would suggest due to some pacing issues. Indeed, for me it’s not even Coppola’s best picture but it is still a massive accomplishment that everyone should see.

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