thelistislife42’s review published on Letterboxd:
Note: For my top three best films, I am attempting to go in depth in my review. This is #2.
The first time I watched this film, I liked it quite a bit, but was a bit bored by parts of it. It thought it was objectively a masterpiece, but I didn't care for it much subjectively. It is worth mentioning that the viewing was on a computer screen. About a year later, in the summer of 2017, I saw that it would be showing as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series at one of my local theaters. I went with my parents and a friend, and was completely blown away, and it has catapulted to being one of my very favorite movies.
This is, without a doubt, Francis Ford Coppola's best film. He proved himself perhaps the best director in the entirety of New Hollywood, and his direction was truly profound.
The performances in this film are definitely worth mentioning. Firstly, Marlon Brando gives what many believe to be the greatest performance in film history, and helped to make Don Vito Corleone among the greatest and most iconic characters ever. The same applies to Al Pacino, for whom this was a breakout role. Despite being little-known before the film's release, Coppola insisted on having him. It was when Pacino produced perhaps the best acted scene in film history (the restaurant scene with Sollozzo) that the studio was convinced of his abilities. The supporting performances are also excellent. James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and others play their characters brilliantly.
Great writing will likely have three aspects. The writing here has all three. Firstly, it has emotional and beautiful monologues. Secondly, it has convincing, realistic, and clever dialogue. Lastly, it is something that comes around with a great pop culture influence, namely, it is quotable, from start to finish.
The visuals of this film are excellent. The use of darkness is mesmerizing and works to pull the viewer deeper into the film. Details like the oranges make it feel real and rich. An important aspect of the film's visuals is the violence. This film uses violence better than most other films in history. It is not glorified, per say, but it very stylistic. The studio wanted it to be less violent, but Coppola insisted that the ultra-violence that made A Clockwork Orange so successful the year prior would be better.
The score by Fellini-regular Nino Rota is now iconic and beloved. It is among the most recognizable and best scores ever. With the huge influence of the film, it has become a popular culture staple, and now elicits a great amount of emotion from any fans of the film.
The editing and cinematography in this film are truly astounding. The use of light and dark works greatly to the film's advantage, and is very good-looking. The editing has proven very influential, with impressive sequences like the baptism montage, which is among the most effective uses of editing ever. Though it lacks the technical prowess of Coppola's other masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, it is nonetheless technically brilliant.
This film is one of the best examples of a film that everybody loves. It is, in fact, probably the most beloved film of all time. Due to its artistic merit, it is critically acclaimed and proved influential within the filmmaking canon. Due to its merit as a form of entertainment, it has earned the affections of common moviegoers, and has influenced popular culture greatly, with the quotes, the characters, and so much more. It is also a greatly historical moment. It is, along with The Graduate, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Star Wars, one of the most influential films in New Hollywood. Coppola was the first of the Movie Brats to get such a big hit, and it launched a revolution. For a number of years, the best films in terms of art and entertainment were commonly the same. The Movie Brats were film school educated, and it is largely due to their contributions to the medium that film is a studied and highly talked-about art form on the same level as literature, music, and other forms of art.
The story here, as it should be with almost any film, is the highlight. It is thoroughly engrossing and absolutely captivating. Its thematic complexity shines through in the characters, and the endlessly genius premise makes for a mesmerizing and unique experience. It is likely the greatest crime epic of them all, and indeed feels like a true epic in the vain of Lawrence of Arabia and Gone with the Wind.
I'm honestly doubtful of there being any substantial complaints here. If I had to choose, I would say that there are at times too many characters to keep track of. But a repeated viewing should have you knowing Clamenza, Tessio, Luca Brasi, Connie, and some of the other supporting characters. It is also apparently boring to some people, but that is an insubstantial and highly subjective complaint, especially when such a large majority find it to be so good.