Rida’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'll just say it up front: I still love The Godfather more.
Now that we've got that out of the way, I'll also say this: The Godfather: Part II is the best sequel I've seen to date. At no point does it seem like a cheap, unnecessary addition to the the story or a money-motivated indulgence on the part of the filmmaker. It's a complete film in its own right.
Three and a half hours all but flew by as I was drawn once again into the dark, shadowy world of the Corleone family. But this time, it's about the rise and rise (?) of Michael Corleone's empire. And because Michael grows colder and more ruthless as the film progresses, the second film never has the sense of intimacy and togetherness that permeates the first film.
The plot is very dense and dark, but balanced out by the gorgeous flashbacks to Vito Corleone's own rise to power. There is a stark contrast between the warm, earthy tones of Vito Corleone's world and the cold, blue surroundings of Michael Corleone. That in itself is enough to underline Coppola's intent - though they both are in the business of murder and crime, the father and son had vastly different morals, different codes of conduct.
I suppose that makes the film rather simplistic in a way that The Godfather wasn't, but nevertheless, Al Pacino's brilliant performance is the kind you cannot take your eyes off. John Cazale is also excellent as Freddie Corleone, especially in the scene where he lays bare his fury at being ignored despite being older than Michael. His voice is loud but shaky, his body language contorted, and it's easy to hate Michael for what he says next.
Robert De Niro is quite impressive as the young Vito Corleone. His rasping voice in particular was a nice touch. And who can forget his ultimate revenge on the man who ruined his family?
I cannot call this film perfect, although I would never hesitate to call the first film that. The Godfather Part II has a large, unwieldy plot that often seems to lose focus and pace several times before the intermission. It feels as though Coppola lost a bit of the grip he had on his material, which never seemed the case in the first film. Post intermission, however, things get utterly absorbing, and viewers forget any gripes they had with the first half.
The Godfather Part II is an excellent film with a brilliant performance by Al Pacino and the wonderful ensemble cast. Though I personally prefer the first film (because of Brando, Caan, iconic lines, the way the film pulls you right into its world, and its general perfection), the second part is a worthy companion film to the first. Absolutely worth watching multiple times.