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The Godfather Review
Michael Corleone: Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.
Beware: Spoilers may follow
This film isn't for your average movie watcher. There is just so much detail in this movie that even the slightest distraction from the movie can cause you to get lost in its narrative completely. With that being said this is an amazing movie in terms of its narrative, visual style, characters, actors' performances, and so on and so forth. If you're willing to sit down quietly and watch and pay deep attention this is truly a cinematic masterpiece.
Let's take a look at the story, shall we? Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is head of the mafia. Fighting by his side are his sons: hot-headed underboss Sonny (James Caan), adopted son and family lawyer Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), the middle child and weakest of the brothers Fredo (John Cazale), and the youngest and the one son who wants nothing to do with the family business Michael (Al Pacino). Vito finds himself refusing a request by another family head Virgil Sollozo (Al Lettieri) to invest in the narcotics business. After a failed assassination attempt by Sollozo's men on Vito's life, however, young Michael finds himself taking up the reins of the business.
The first thing about that stands out about this movie is that it's very slow-paced. It's very easy for the average watcher to criticize how slow it is. But within all that slowness lies an ominous and mysterious atmosphere full of themes to appreciate such as power, family, love, and loyalty. The slow atmosphere also gives time to show who these characters are and why we should care about them. Although only some manage to carry the weight of the film I can safely say every actor in this movie gives a dynamite performance. But the movie doesn't stray away from the dark stuff in the movie. People do die in this movie (I don't think I'm giving much away when I say that) and when they do it is very chilling and realistic.
When it comes to the characters the movie is even greater. Perhaps in terms of characters, its greatest strength lies in that despite the fact all these characters are mobsters they still are at heart family to one another and act as such whether the characters are biologically related or not. They still try to do things that normal families do and they all treat each other with love and respect which makes them all the more relatable.
However familial connection does not overshadow loyalty and as we see throughout the movie loyalty is a conflict among most of if not all of our characters. We see how loyalty lies with our characters and can easily be bought and thus be betrayed among family and friends throughout the mafia.
Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone is fantastic and the best part of the whole movie. The opening scene establishes him brilliantly as a man of great power and stature but also as a loving father to his kids and husband to his wife. He is a powerful man but also keeps both his family and the other mafia families in check as without him everything falls into disarray. Vito isn't an unreasonable man either. He's willing to do anything to keep the family business stable and prevent certain matters in the business from going too far.
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone also shines in the film. His slow but steady descent from wanting nothing to do with the mafia to becoming a ruthless cold-hearted businessman is shown really well through his sadness and anger over the events of the movie.
The other three brothers Sonny, Fredo, and Tom are also great characters and their performances are spot on. Sonny is the stubborn one but also the one with most knowledge of how the business works. Tom despite being adopted is still acts and is treated as family. He is played to just the right amount. Fredo is easily the most flawed character but his flaws make him relatable. He's not very bright he isn't capable of acting on his own and ultimately his traits have consequences. All three of the brothers are well defined and it is ultimately shown why none of them would be the perfect successor to Vito.
Other characters/actors such as Vito's daughter Connie Corleone (Talia Shire), Michael's girlfriend Kay Adams-Corleone (Diane Keaton), Sollozo (Al Lettieri), Connie's husband Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Ruso), Vito's godson Johnny Fontane (Al Martino), and others are all played by good actors and give good performances however none of them drive the film to the same extent that Vito and his sons give.
The Godfather is one of those movies that is truly a masterpiece. However, it is a masterpiece that requires your undivided attention. If you are willing to give it your undivided attention you have watched a true classic. It is truly one of the greatest adult films out there.