Scarlett Worthington’s review published on Letterboxd:
Is the Godfather really that good? (Spoiler alert yes it really fucking is)
The Godfather follows the trials and tribulations of the inner life and professional life of the Italian-American Corleone crime family.
My first time rewatching the “best film of all time” and I will admit my first reaction of The Godfather was a positive one but not one of absolute awe, the kind you would expect of this masterpiece. But never fear, I now am in absolute awe given my rewatch and I will now try and attempt to put my thoughts and feelings into a somewhat legible review. Not as if I’m going to say anything that you probably haven’t heard already nor will I say anything that may enlighten you on the cinematic prowess that this film is but nonetheless I need to put my thoughts into a review otherwise I’ll never stop thinking about them and I may go insane.
The Godfather managed to be a groundbreaking piece of cinema in its innovative storytelling and character building. The story isn’t one that would spark a revolution, no new way of making a film was utilised or anything like that, this isn’t how The Godfather earned its high ranking. The reason Coppola created a masterpiece unlike anything else was because he simply used every single cinematic tool to its full effectiveness so that everything came together in the most perfect way. The characters are made up of nothing but richness, you can see what a character relationship is in the way two characters shake hands, the cinematography tells the story as much as the dialogue does, the score finds the balance in fading into the background and adding atmosphere whilst also reflecting the action, intricate details are slotted into places so that your rewatch will conjure up fresh feelings and many many more things, it really would take me ages to list every single tool that was used to maximum effect.
Essentially this is a story of power, the path one takes to get the power and how it effects different characters. A sense of power and superiority is conveyed in all the subtleties so that you are constantly aware of the story that’s being told. Vito Corleone is our first example of a figure who has power, even the number one hit man in New York can’t compose himself in front of him. Vito has earned this power by playing by the rules (well mob rules) with nobility, which earns him respect, his power comes from everyone respecting him. Respect however is a key aspect amongst all characters in fact there’s a sense of respect throughout every character interaction even if there is no respect the facade is there, for example when Michael has dinner with the two men he plans to kill. That thematic stimulant really allows us to invest in this world as we too have to respect everything we see. Michael is our second example of someone with power yet he is practically a paradox to how Vito represents power.
Now, you know the Corleone family will ultimately reach a downfall because none of the Corleone siblings have the combination of characteristics that Vito does (we see why Vito has these characteristics and his sons don’t in Part 2): Sonny is strong and loyal but he has too dangerous a temper, Fredo is gentle with a love for people and for life but he’s too weak to be the Don and although Michael is most like his Father with his cool temperament and ability to think straight he lacks a genuine compassion and love for his family he’s too ruthless. A quote I saw that some youtuber’s Mum said I think conveys this thought perfectly; “Vito was ruthless only with his enemies, Michael was ruthless within his own family”. Initially Michael doesn’t want to be involved with the family business and prioritises his relationship with Kay over his blood family’s line of work, he still cares about his family otherwise he wouldn’t have volunteered to murder those involved in Father’s attempted assassination. The moment he commits the act is the obvious turning point in Michael, from somewhat good to bad, as he has tasted how sweet power can be. Michael’s character arch is an usual one as he is the protagonist yet he goes down a dark path, the path to villainy which would elude to the path to self destruction, yet he doesn’t appear to be a villain. He doesn’t appear to be the villain I think because of the idea of respect that stimulates the plot that I mentioned earlier. Michael becomes the reincarnation of the Don Corleone and the negativity of this isn’t obvious at first as we’ve only been presented with Vito, who uses his power to care for his family, however we begin to see that Michael wants power for personal gain. Vito doesn’t feel villainous as he shows emotion and care but we see no emotions in Michael other than that of vengeance and pride. Nothing Michael does is personal so he could do anything.
I haven’t even covered the full depth of the characters, that’s how brilliantly they are shown. The characters are what I love the most about this film because in my reviews I don’t usually want to go into such detail with the intricacies of character (except with Trainspotting) yet with the Godfather it’s all I want to do. I also love how this film manages to have a core and heart; the core being the relationship between Michael and Vito with the heart being the relationship with Michael and Kay. Michael used to love Kay more than his family but when he gets her back when he returns from Sicily he closes the door on their relationship (literally, see the last scene shot for reference) and the problems with that will be presented in Part 2. Michael can either have Kay or be head of his crime family but he doesn’t realise this as his power has made him greedy. Nonetheless, we hang on to Michael’s relationship with her as it’s the last good thing left in Michael without it he would be a villain.
If this film has a core and a heart, it’ll need a base and the base is the Mobster world we are just so immersed in, right from the first scene. Whilst watching the Godfather you constantly feel as if you are smack in the middle of the world, you understand it even though you have no prior knowledge of it. I better stop now otherwise my analysis will merge into the next film and I’ll save that for when I watch it next. I really have found an absolute love and appreciation for the Godfather trilogy, so yes it really is that good.