The Godfather

The Godfather ★★★★★

First review: letterboxd.com/thommy1801/film/the-godfather/

Cinematic perfection. “The Godfather” deserves all the praise and critical acclaim it got, because every frame of this 3 hours long masterpiece radiates class and artistic brilliance. This blend of enthralling crime epic, in-depth character study, and heart-wrenching family drama is a one of a kind creative achievement and an influential cultural milestone.

Already the opening wedding sequence is as perfect as it gets, since it sucks you right into the world of the film, introduces almost all of the major characters and their relationships, sets up several important themes and story threads, and sets the tone for the whole movie. That´s how you begin a great masterpiece. Fortunately, the rest of the film is on the same quality level and features many more iconic moments. My favorites include the Jack Woltz episode, the assassination of Sollozzo and McCluskey (Michael´s point of no return), the peaceful, mesmerizing, and almost dreamlike Sicily sequence, the meeting of the Five Families (my favorite Brando scene), the final talk between Vito and Michael, the legendary baptism scene (one of the greatest movie scenes ever), and the final scene of the film.

“The Godfather” tells a complex, engaging, and well-constructed story full of intrigues, betrayals, and double crosses. It challenges the audience but it´s not unnecessarily confusing for the sake of it. If you pay attention, you can follow the plot. Furthermore, it´s a film you could analyze for hours, thanks to its fascinating symbolism and thematic depth. “The Godfather” is an epic, profound, and layered tale about family, love, duty, honor, masculinity, tradition, progress, life, death, trust, betrayal, crime, greed, corruption, revenge, guilt, morality, Italian American identity and culture, the American Dream, meaning, and human nature.

The biggest strengths of the film are the probably best ensemble cast of all time and the fascinating, fleshed out, and unforgettable characters, first and foremost the larger than life members of the Corleone family, all of them cinematic icons. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino deliver the standout performances in a film full of standout performances and show why both of them are considered to be among the medium´s greatest legends. How Brando completely transforms into Don Vito Corleone is among the most impressive acting I have ever seen, and his gravitas and phenomenal screen presence further elevate the already perfect film. Still, it´s Michael Corleone´s story, and Al Pacino is up for the task. Michael is one of the most complex, conflicted, believable, and fully realized movie protagonists of all time and his character arc is a masterclass in writing. Pacino plays him with great nuance and subtlety and a form of controlled intensity that is both awe-inspiring and frightening. If you compare the cool, introverted, and calculating Michael Corleone with the hotheaded and unhinged Tony Montana, you once again have to appreciate Pacino´s enormous range as an actor.

Apart from Vito and Michael, my favorite characters are the other Corleone sons. James Caan as Sonny, John Cazale as Fredo, and Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen all add something different but equally integral to the movie. The interactions of all 5 characters are my personal highlights, acting-wise. And the rest of the supporting cast is fantastic, as well. Diane Keaton (Kay), Talia Shire (Connie), Richard S. Castellano (Clemenza), Abe Vigoda (Tessio), Al Lettieri (Sollozzo), Richard Conte (Barzini), Sterling Hayden (McCluskey), John Marley (Jack Woltz), Alex Rocco (Moe Greene), Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi), and Simonetta Stefanelli (Apollonia) all play characters you won´t forget. A classier cast is hardly imaginable.

The spellbinding atmosphere, intricate and highly immersive worldbuilding, sublime cinematography, masterful editing, and breathtaking production design further add to the brilliance of the film. And of course, “The Godfather” wouldn´t be the same without Nino Rota´s soul-stirring score.

For every aspiring filmmaker or actor, “The Godfather” is both inspiring and intimidating. It´s simply the best of the best. Peak cinema.

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