Gumby77’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've held out long enough in doing a review on "THE GODFATHER: PART II" ... I had it as one of my "Top 4" on my profile page for the longest time, as the only one of the four (the other three being "SHAWSHANK", "INCEPTION", and "DIE HARD"), that I didn't do a review for.
Well ... it's time to change that.
Truthfully, there really isn't anything that I can say that hasn't already been said about this film ... but I will say a few things. For one thing, I find this film to be the everlasting example of what a "sequel" should be. There have been many entertaining, enthralling, and successful sequels in film history, but very few hold "iconic" status.
"THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" ... "ALIENS" ... "THE DARK KNIGHT" ... "T2: JUDGEMENT DAY" are just a few sequels that legitimately "SURPASS" their predecessor in nearly every category ... and "THE GODFATHER: PART II" easily belongs in that category ... hell, you can even make the argument that "THE GODFATHER: PART II" is the greatest film sequel in existence.
Seeing Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in alternating timelines is one of the most engaging things I have ever seen in film ... the film follows the rise of Michael Corleone as the Don of the legendary crime family, which leads into his eventual descent in to loneliness ... while simultaneously exploring the background of the late Vito Corleone and the beginnings of his crime empire.
"THE GODFATHER: PART II" is a sprawling epic, and a perfect presentation that captures the intensity of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone in a way the first film simply couldn’t. While "PART II" doesn’t necessarily introduce new scene-stealing characters like what most sequels do, it did broaden the scope of the iconic Vito Corleone with the sub-plot origin tale of how the Don came to be. It makes for one of the most thralling and engaging stories ever brought to a film screen.
Director Francis Ford Coppola and Al Pacino completely outdo themselves here in "PART II". Pacino puts on arguably the greatest performance of his career (for me "SCENT OF A WOMAN" still remains his best), and Coppola is absolutely flawless working behind the camera and calling the shots. To me, the scene that stands out the most, also attacks the true heart of this film, while simultaneously also being the coldest scene of the entire film ... its the one scene of the entire film that Francis executed PERFECTLY. Of course I am talking about the "boat scene", which closes the complicated and fascinating relationship between Michael and his brother Fredo. The well-paced progression of their struggling brotherhood perfectly mirrors Michael’s own boiling rage, as he loses control of himself and his family. The image of Fredo on the boat is one I think of every time I think about this film.
Thematically, that scene also greatly expresses (as does the trilogy as a whole) what this film is all about ... a deep, thought-inducing, crime drama that makes you have a deep thought about what it truly takes to keep a family together. "THE GODFATHER: PART III" obviously lacks the general adoration amongst most film lovers that the first two got ... and I think the reason being, is that it may be the fault of a sequel which set the bar so high it still seems almost insurmountable. "PART II" set such a high standard, that there was no way "PART III" would be met with equal adoration ... for me, while most have problems with "PART III", I found it as a satisfying bookend to the trilogy.
However, to this day, it still does not compare to the middle chapter of "PART II" ... "THE GODFATHER: PART II" can literally and justifiably be called a "perfect film", and it would be very hard-pressed to find a better film sequel than this one. Anybody looking for a lesson on how to tell a great story, needs to look no further than this sequel of "THE GODFATHER: PART II" ... in my opinion, the greatest of all time.
The first "GODFATHER" is just as much of a classic, while "PART III" I found as a satisfying, commendable end ... but to this day, "THE GODFATHER: PART II" remains as the definitive chapter of the trilogy, and will continue to be for decades to come, and even more decades after that.