The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II ★★★★★

One of the justifications for The Godfather's length (which seems to get shorter every time I see it) is its responsibility to show the glacial progression of Michael Corleone from staunchly individualistic in remaining removed from his family's mob ventures to pensive and complicit, accepting the throne after the death of his father, Vito. Scenes run long, but more importantly, cuts are infrequent as well; Michael's change isn't one that happens overnight. It takes moments of grooming in the form of killing police officers during an evening dinner and intimidating crosstown families by standing confidently on a stoop acting as if you're brandishing a handgun to scare off a potential mugging — or worse. We couldn't have gotten the full scope of Michael's change had it happened in 100 minutes, nor would it have felt authentic. After three hours, we are almost brought to mouth the words, "how could you?" when we witness the iconic ending. But we don't. We know the answer, or later come to find out.

The Godfather: Part II is an intriguing "rise and fall" story because it's a story of falling halfheartedly disguised as rising. Had this sequel been the first Godfather, it's quite possible that the tone of this film would've been much different. We might've seen Michael Corleone as a figure to envy; a self-made man in pursuit of honing his role as Don. Instead, we see his story as one of selling out and comprising principles in the face of family pressure; one that shows him as caught between his desire to minimize the mob connections of the Corleone family yet haphazardly handle them to the point of bringing more danger to him and his kin. Francis Ford Coppola and co-writer Mario Puzo silently ask a lot of questions during the film and one is plainly carried throughout the film: how do you go back to being a college student and Marine Corp vet and onto a career as a promising lawyer when you've done things in your life you'd be hardpressed to defend your clients for doing?

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