Stu’s review published on Letterboxd:
Francis Ford Coppola’s follow up to the multi-Oscar winning classic The Godfather (1972) is for me not only the best sequel ever made, but the best film of all time. The sheer scale of this picture is impressive enough, but when you add 100% competence in every aspect of the filmmaking process you are left with an epic movie experience that remains a benchmark to this day.
The Godfather Part II (1974) continues the story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) who, since the death of his father Vito and elder brother Sonny, has inherited the Corleone crime family and is now the most powerful man in America’s underworld. His ambition is to make the family legitimate, but it brings unwanted pressures on his relationship with wife Kay (Diane Keaton) pushing his aspirations and those closest to him further from his grasp. The repercussions of this leads Michael down a dark path as he is left facing a web of betrayal and deceit.
What makes this instalment unique are the integral transitions from Sicily in 1901 to 1950’s Nevada and from New York in 1917 back to Sicily in the early 1920’s. By jumping back and forth between these specific timeframes Coppola successfully depicts the formative years of Vito Andolini, soon to become Corleone following the murder of his brother and mother, to his rise to mafia boss Don Corleone (Robert De Niro). Coppola also establishes the legacy that Vito’s son Michael has bequeathed as he continuous his pursuit for greater power whilst attempting to flush out a new threat to his reign.
De Niro’s levelheaded yet intense portrayal of the young Vito Corleone is uncanny doing justice to Marlon Brando’s older Vito from the original film. Pacino puts in another excellent performance, which I believe should’ve got him his first Oscar and Keaton steps up to the plate once again. The set designs and cinematography for the early 1900 set pieces are stunning providing that sense of reality to Mario Puzo’s story, which is skilfully adapted by both Puzo and Coppola. Nino Rota’s masterful score provides the proverbial cherry on the cake of a film that remains as significant today as it ever was and is not only a major landmark in film history, it’s a major landmark in history period.
“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.” - Michael Corleone