The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II ★★★★★

One of the most common debates among film lovers is which is better, "The Godfather" or "The Godfather Part II". I will have you know that I am in the camp of "Part II". I honestly think "The Godfather Part II" is the greatest movie ever made. Of course it can't exist without the first one. In fact when I refer to "The Godfather", I mean parts one and two together. "The Godfather Part III" is another matter.

Francis Ford Coppola was given far more carte blanche in this sequel and it shows. He rightfully won the Best Director Oscar, which he didn't win for the first movie for some reason. This is one of the most ambitious and epic films I've ever seen. Being a sequel and a prequel, the movie ingeniously juxtaposes the rise of Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro who in a spiritual sense shares his Oscar with Marlon Brando) and the story of Michael Corleone protecting his empire at the expense of his soul.

At the time this movie was released in 1974, some critics criticized the prequel/sequel structure for being messy. I couldn't disagree more. The prequel sequences not only make you appreciate the original film more, they are ingeniously edited with the other story in the movie. Consider one scene where Michael is still emotionally recovering from Fredo's betrayal. This dissolves into the revelation that Fredo suffered from pneumonia when he was a baby, establishing that Fredo was always weak as a character. This structure also makes the audience ponder: Is Michael acting the way Vito acted as Godfather, or is it that the times are changing and Michael is acting accordingly.

If were to pick the greatest acting performance that should have won an Oscar but wasn't even nominated it would be John Cazale as Fredo Corleone. I especially want to draw attention to one particular scene. It's full of powerful emotion and it's when Michael was confronting Fredo over his betrayal. Fredo's heart breaking insistence that he's not the dumb and inept person people say he is contrasts with Michael's brutally cold disowning of his older brother. Of course Al Pacino is brilliant in the movie too. His look of pure psycho rage is something you will never forget. You'll know that scene when you see it.

The final scene in this movie is my favorite in cinema history. Upon all of my rewatchings it still haunts me deeply. I honestly think it's the greatest gut punch a film has ever or will give.