JoshTheCritic’s review published on Letterboxd:
This movie gets better every time, each viewing I get more and more out of it. The first film is an incredibly difficult triumph to surpass, yet the second part managed to do it. I believe this absolutely is the best one. With the phenomenally smart and complex use of intertextuality, the story beats mirror the events in the first film but with a new meaning and context. This is the perfect way to do a sequel, and adds a significantly deeper edge to it than the already masterpiece of an opening installment. The first film is more simple and straightforward, which is great and does that flawlessly, but I guess I find myself preferring the more multi-layered intricacies of this one. The screenplay is fantastic obviously; it is very subtle and is more rewarding the closer you pay attention to the little details. This interestingly is a combination of being an original and an adapted screenplay, with the continuation of Michael’s plot being new and the Vito storyline from the original book (which I read). How the film managed to handle these two story threads together are ingeniously woven without hurting the pacing. The film shows a stark contrast between the two empires: we see the rise of Vito, the downfall of Michael. Vito’s actions bring him respect, he is surrounded by friends and family; Michael’s actions bring fear to his surroundings, his business has taken the place of family, he is alone. Thematically there is so much to comment on. This is such an amazing character study of Michael’s state of mind. Al Pacino gives his best performance here. The entire cast is impressive, from the newcomers to returning faces. This by a landslide is the best visually. The first film looks good, though doesn’t scream ‘gorgeous’ like this one does. It’s such a visual feast, the grand production does it favors, the framing and lighting intentional always brilliant. I even think the score was improved upon somehow. Michael’s dynamics with Fredo is so good. Like the first movie, it has more than a handful of the greatest scenes period—I can hardly decide, so I’ll just say THAT scene with Michael and Kay was my favorite. No spoilers, you’d know what I’m talking about if you saw it. This is an all-time great and is an absolute must-see. The best sequel ever and is a top 5 films for me.