Josh Gibbs’s review published on Letterboxd:
“My father taught me many things here, he taught me in this room. He taught me, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
What a fantastic sequel. It accomplishes what the very best set out to do, capturing the brilliance of its predecessor while expanding upon its rich legacy by taking its characters in complex new directions and further developing the emotional nuances of their relationships, all the while maintaining its singular focus on telling the story of this one family.
“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!”
Something about this one, perhaps the setting, or the pre-existing familiarity with the characters ensuring no moment of runtime is wasted, just clicked a whole lot faster for me. Its indisputably magnificent craft may not quite match the brilliance of Coppola’s Part I, nor does it contain as many incredible sequences, but it's a more intimate work, somehow both far less intimidating and immediately easier to embrace than the coolly distant original.
You know a film is using parallel storylines effectively when with each shift in focus you once again find yourself too deeply immersed in the one story to want to return to the other. This also somewhat surprised me in that it contained one of my favourite De Niro performances thus far. He's so expressive despite being so understated, and his presence is undiminished in every scene even when he doesn't speak a word, I love it.
“Michael, your father loves you very much. Very much.”
I would complain that it slightly suffers from similar problems to its precursor in that the beautiful tension of the second act is somewhat undercut by what follows, but I can't reasonably do so, as the patient yet deliberate pacing is exactly what allows for the final act to deliver one horribly inevitable and devastating gut-punch of a conclusion after another.
“I don’t understand. Your father has plans for you. Many times he and I have talked about your future... Mikey, he has high hopes for you.”
“I’ll make it up to you, Kay. I swear I’ll make it up to you, I’ll… I’m gonna change. I’ll change. I’ve learned that I have the strength to change.”
One simple wrong decision is all it takes to get the ball rolling. For Vito, for Michael, for all of us. The missteps become an awful lot easier after that.