The Godfather

The Godfather ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

That scene with the diner bathroom has got to be one of the finest constructed ever put to film. The tension generated both leading up to and within the scene itself, aided greatly by the knowledge of Michael’s established place within the family and the adept development of his arc up to that point, is not simply drawn from the stakes inherent within the situation, but from the question of whether or not he will really go through with it. When he eventually does pull the trigger, we feel as though we’ve committed the act alongside him, and are thus complicit in his guilt. It's the first time Michael has ever murdered anyone, and it feels real. In hindsight, the conclusion to this meeting appears inevitable from the outset, and yet in the moment the shock is tangible, even on rewatch. And as he gets up to leave, letting the incriminating weapon clatter to the floor, we all know there's no turning back.

Aside from that, most everything else just fell into place this time. Watching it in two sittings likely helped significantly, but the pacing felt excellent this time, allowing breathing space for all the magnificence to sink in and truly take hold. I barely felt any drag, and the little moments taken to beautifully develop each character and the family dynamics, particularly within the first hour, shone all the brighter. While the first two acts still maintain the edge over the third, aside from some slight drag, the crime politics felt far less convoluted this time and were thus far more engaging to watch. And boy if that ending and the coda don't push everything right back up to where it was...

“Michael! You lousy bastard, you killed my husband! You waited until papa died so nobody could stop you, and then you killed him. You blame him for Sonny, you always did, everybody did, but you never thought about me, you never gave a damn about me!”

My appreciation for Rota's aptly seductive, hauntingly atmospheric and painfully mournful score only grows. The same can be said of Willis' formidably murky cinematography, with its ability to highlight the moral ambiguity and shadowy nature of each character’s motivation becoming even more evident on repeat viewing. The attention to detail within costume and hair & makeup is astounding, and I adore the way each is used to highlight character differences while observing the progression of their arcs, such as the sharp contrast between Tom's tightly buttoned waistcoat and combed back hair with Sonny's loose-fitting shirt and ever-scruffy appearance reflecting their warring personalities.

The choice for Michael to be seen early in the film sporting a schoolboy-style jacket with an overlong, ruffled haircut lends him a youthful, naive and sympathetic quality, one that is later tarnished by his selection of darker suits and slicked-back hairstyle. It is with this appearance more befitting of the intimidating, ruthless and seemingly unstoppable crime boss he has become with which he finally takes his place in an ordinary seat behind an ordinary desk in an all-too-familiar room. There was once a wedding ceremony held in this place, one which joyfully celebrated a sacred union now irreversibly torn apart in an instant. This seat was once so comfortably occupied by another man, a man who Michael vowed to never become. There he now sits, all at once gaining every privilege his father ever possessed, and all at once dooming himself to suffer the exact same fate.

“You do appreciate beauty, don't you?”

Well played Francis, well played.

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