JC13’s review published on Letterboxd:
"There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."- Michael Corleone
Talk about following in big foot steps. The Godfather was an instant classic so naturally making a sequel would be difficult to say the least. Luckily, Francis Ford Coppola and his crew exceeded expectations and made the greatest sequel of all time. The fact that this film is able to match (and in my opinion surpass) the brilliance of its predecessor is truly astounding. With the same perfect direction that was present in the first film, The Godfather Part II is nothing short of a masterpiece. Every element of the film blends together to create something that is perfect. I don't throw the term 'perfect' around a lot, but when talking about this film I do.
Nino Rota delivers an even more amazing score for this film than he did for the previous one. Once again he is able to capture the essence of every scene. The perfect editing of the film is also a big factor to its greatness. Every scene flows together beautifully with the ones that come before and after it. This is especially impressive considering that they are juggling two separate stories in the film. The film chronicles the fall of Michael Corleone while also showing in flashbacks the rise of his father Vito years earlier. The way it is edited together makes it so neither story detracts from the other. They work together amazingly well. It is a very clever storytelling decision.
As in the first film the acting is amazing across the board. This may very well be the most brilliantly acted film of all time. Everyone is perfect for their part. (See I just said perfect again!) G.D. Spradlin is superb as Senator Pat Geary, Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Stasberg are both fantastic in their Oscar nominated roles and Talia Shire is even better here than in the first film (mainly due to extended screen time). Robert Duvall is also great yet again as Tom Hagen. The two best performances of the film however come from my two favorite actors: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. They each give my favorite performance of theirs.
De Niro actually tried out for the part of Sonny in the first film (you can watch his audition on YouTube), but thankfully it went to James Caan instead (he was amazing) because De Niro is just perfect (there it is again!) as the young Vito Corleone. His ability to channel Marlon Brando's performance from the first film, but at the same time make the role his own is just amazing. De Niro is at his most badass here which is saying a lot. The fact that he learned an entirely new language for the part goes to show what a dedicated actor he is. His already compelling storyline is made even more compelling through his outstanding performance for which he deservedly won his first Oscar. It also happened to be his first nomination.
Al Pacino on the other hand didn't have the same luck as De Niro. For this film he received his 3rd Oscar nomination and still didn't get a win (and he wouldn't until his 8th nomination in 1993). That is one of the biggest mistakes in Oscar history. Pacino gives what may be my 2nd favorite performance of all time. His performance is at times subtle and restrained, but at other times he is more in your face (he has a number of scenes where he loses his temper and begins yelling). Pacino plays his character to perfection (yes, I said it again) in all aspects of the film. One standout scene is where he learns who the traitor is in his family. Pacino's way of conveying a number of emotions such as confusion, disbelief, anger and despair all without saying a word is unparalleled.
Another standout scene is between Pacino and John Cazale who I also delivers an amazing performance. Pacino's cold delivery of every line is astonishing. He also gives one of the greatest stare downs in cinematic history. Overall its just a powerhouse performance from Pacino. We saw his fall in the first film, but here we see his continue down this dark path and its truly shocking. Compare him at the end of this film to the Michale at the beginning of the first film and you'll see he is no longer the same man. This transformation is played so effortlessly by Pacino which testifies to his greatness as an actor.
The Godfather Part II is full of emotionally intense scenes throughout. The brilliant performances and storytelling along with the amazing cinematography and score work together to make something truly special. It is a very powerful work. The many layers of the story are told amazingly and in a way that you discover new things about the plot every time you watch the film. Some may miss Brando and Caan and some of the other from the first film, but I assure you the newcomers along with the returning cast more than makeup for their absence. The final scene with Pacino sitting alone staring off into the distance with a slow zoom to his face is the perfect end to the perfect film (there's two more times). This is truly one of the greatest (if not the absolute greatest) film(s) of all time. 10/10