This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
No one could have possibly expected the sequel to surpass the box office revenue of the original Godfather films, much less predict it winning Best Picture. I myself have a difficult time deciding exactly which of these two Godfather films I love more. They are both brilliant pieces of classic cinematic art in their own respects- so brilliant that they are both next to each other on both Letterboxd and imdb's top 250 lists. So I can't help but place them next to each other on my own top list, preferring to place them in chronological order, rather than preference.
Francis Ford Coppola's sequel is actually a brilliant mix of sequel and prequel. While showing periods of Michael Corleone's rise of power in the crime syndicate, he alternated with showing Don Vito Corleone's own origin story, of how he began as a young immigrant fleeing from the Sicilian mafia. Vito struggles at first, but soon rises up and becomes one of the most powerful mob men in New York, the details fully laid out before us. Simultaneously, we are shown Michael's own struggle as he moves his family business to Las Vegas, where he expands a huge casino business, spreading all across America and in Italy as well. He is subjected to frequent interviews and investigation committees, who are determined to bring down the Corleone family and their illicit business and practices.
Michael faces a deeper threat to his family, however. Someone inside is a traitor, working with a rival gang member. Any true film fan knows the rat, resulting in one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, "I knew it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!" That scene, set to the backdrop of a New Year's Eve party, emanates some of the most powerful dramatic moments in the entire film. Here is a man, Michael's own brother, who betrayed him and his family for his own benefit. So Michael cuts Fredo off from the family, refusing to speak or even see him. Things get worse for Michael, however, when he discovers that his wife aborted their unborn son instead of a miscarriage like he was led to believe. Enraged, he lunged at his wife, and cuts her off from the children and family as well. Traitors, as we can see, are clearly not welcomed in the Corleone family. Michael eventually learns the value of forgiveness and reconciled with Fredo, but is all really well between the two? Will the proverbial eye be taken for the eye? The slow but sure burn throughout this 202 minute epic provides an exhaustive, no-holds-barred inside look at the rise of two generations of a powerful mafia family, and Coppola does it in a style that only he could ever pull off.
It may just be me, but I swear that the scenes featuring young Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro) were tinted with a slight brown color, perhaps either (1.) Signifying the unpolished nature of early 20th century America and her immigrants, or (2.) Possibly Coppola trying to fit with the color style of the silent films of that era. I would be more inclined to believe the former, but either way, it's a touch that I can't help but admire. I adore a director's unique and artistic use of color in any film, and it tends to catch my eye faster than most other things in films.
Speaking of Robert DeNiro, he is fantastic in The Godfather: Part II as a younger Vito Corleone. We are convinced through his performance that he could actually be him, and his character's slight resemblance to Al Pacino's character solidifies this connection for me. Coppola's Godfather films never lack in acting talents, and Part II has a truly magnificent all-star cast.
In an age when remakes and sequels are being handed to moviegoers like candy, it's a relief to know that some films like The Godfather: Part II still exist. Films that not only aren't horrible, but actually manage to be on par, if not even better than, their original counterparts. It must take a lot to make a film longer and yet somehow better than the original, and Coppola brilliantly pulls it off in Part II. The genius combination of Michael and Vito's own stories of their own rise into power, and corruption thereof, is one of the greatest directorial moves in cinematic history. Coppola never manages to lose your attention for a second- we are so entranced and drawn into the world of the Corleones that it almost becomes reality for us. A real part of history that is exciting when placed onto a screen, and one of the greatest achievements in the history of film.