Daniel Kibbe’s review published on Letterboxd:
"This is the business we have chosen!"
- Hyman Roth
This film's legacy is nearly impossible to live up to. Often cited as one of the greatest films ever, winning 6 academy awards, and boasting a star-studded cast; such a line up of positives are certain to make for a disappointment in any other situation. But not here. The Godfather part II manages to live up to its name, and excel in every area possible. Along with part I, this is a near-perfect cinematic experience.
The Godfather part II tells a tale of two Corleone's; father and son. One focuses on a young Vito Corleone as he comes to America after his family is killed by the Mafia chieftain in Corleone, Sicily. The second story picks up after the first film, in 1958. It follows Vito's son, Michael, now the Don of the Corleone family, as he works to expand his empire in places like Nevada and Cuba. He is nearly assassinated, and begins to clash with Miami mobster, Hyman Roth, whom he suspects was behind the attack. Michael works to take revenge, whilst pulling the strings to grow his crime empire.
The two stories are interwoven to perfection. They never conflict, or detract from one another. They are both equally interesting and well-made, both telling deeply complex tales of morality, family, and corruption. The plot is incredibly well-crafted, and the world fully realized. Director Francis Ford Coppola not only focuses the camera on our main protagonists, but on the citizens of New York, or Cuba, or wherever the story ends up. This, in turn, creates a living, breathing world that feels authentic to its core. This makes the stories interesting, as well as the various twists, turns, and revelations that the plot follows. Not to mention the realistic, interesting characters, and pitch-perfect dialogue. All of this makes for an extremely rewarding, and intriguing experience. It's probably one of the greatest and well-told stories I've seen on screen.
The characters are all unique and interesting, as said before. With such a star filled cast, you really can't go wrong. Al Pacino as Michael,Robert De Niro as Vito, and Lee Strasberg as Hayman Roth, are the three particular standouts, each delivering superb, and deeply complex performances. The dialogue written for these characters is also complex, but it has a certain fluidity to it, making it easy to understand even the most complicated of events. It's truly genius screenwriting.
On par with the rest of the parts, is the direction. Francis Ford Coppola brings Italian neo-realism to a broad audience with such nuance and skill, that it's impossible to overlook. The film is superbly crafted from every angle. The sound is great, and the score is beautifully rendered. The cinematography is marvelous, capturing sunny Sicily, bustling New York, and quiet Nevada (and other locations) with equal brilliance. But the cinematography truly shines in the interior scenes, where the use of shadows is impeccable. The contrast of light and dark perfectly showcase the conflict between the man Michael Corleone once was, versus the evil man he has now become.
Really, gushing praise about this film is worthless, since everyone has been doing it since 1974. But it's all with good reason, as this film really is one of the greatest to ever be shown on screen. It's impeccable from start to finish, and in every aspect. Francis Ford Coppola proves to be an extremely skilled director, in presenting a perfect piece of cinematic art. A true masterpiece.