Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

You can find the review for The Godfather here

Yes, that above statement is true. You can read a review of The Godfather, but is it bad to say I don’t recommend it? It was my first post – perhaps not my best work. So, instead, stick around for this one. I think you’re going to enjoy it…

Lucky I’m not writing on paper here, because the ink would be smudged with tears. I’m not going to wait for the conclusion to say it. This is the greatest film. Ever. Of all time. Personally, I find this far more beautiful than the Mona Lisa or The Last Supper, just because it’s so extraordinary. No offence to people who like paintings, but paintings suck.

The Godfather: Part II follows on from the first, and Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has been head of the family for seven years now. Partnering with Jewish businessman Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), Michael looks to expand into Cuba, but with lurking danger and an attempted assassination, he realises he can trust no one, whether that be his family or his ‘family‘. While The Godfather is Michael’s initiation to becoming the don, Part II is about his struggles, self destruction and moral demise.

What’s great about Part II is that it isn’t a sequel. I think both the films compliment each other nicely, and I would, of course, advise watching the first – it gives it backstory and context and you’ll understand what’s going on – but Part II is easily a stellar film in it’s own right. Is it better than the first? Yes. It’s darker, more profound, more raw, more expansive. The Godfather is good, perhaps a little outdated. The Godfather: Part II is just… I’m lost for words.

Why is it better? It think part of it is to do with the fact that this isn’t an adaptation of a book, but taking Mario Puzo’s character and Francis Ford Coppola being allowed to create his own story around it. He had more freedom and, as the brilliant film maker he is, made Part II something to behold. Coppola’s run from The Godfather, to The Conversation, to The Godfather: Part II, to Apocalypse Now, must surely be one of the greatest film runs in such a short period of time – just seven years. Wouldn’t mind that on my CV.

The pacing of the film is also excellent. Cutting between the story of young Vito (Robert De Niro) and Michael is perhaps one of the greatest decisions in the history of cinema. The juxtaposition between the two helps emphasise Michael’s degrading morals and humanity. De Niro’s performance is incredible, although his raspy Godfather voice was no Marlon Brando. We see his troubled past, and how he ends up in such a position of power. In the end, it was all based on luck and quick wits.

But what we also see is that Vito is not out for the power. What he cares about is family. And while he commits crimes, he is respectful and mild mannered. Everything he does is done out of love, and to protect those who are close to him – something he held true to for all his life. When he kills Fanucci, it is to save his new family, and when he kills Ciccio, it is to avenge his old. We see his close connection to a young Michael, and his burning desire to put his brood before anything else. He wants them to be happy. He’s likeable, he’s courteous and he’s a very good businessman.

Michael is pretty much the exact opposite of this. Although he thinks he’s doing his crimes for his children and wife and siblings, he’s lost sight of it. In the first Godfather, he’s fresh faced, patriotic, handsome and the pride of the family. We get to see that with the flashback below:

It sums up the family amazingly.

After his brothers leave the room, Michael sits alone at the table. We then cut back to Michael, staring out over the lake, his dead brother’s corpse lying on a boat. His eyes are cold, ruthless, emotionless. He’s got deep, dark bags, his hair is greying, he’s world weary. Fighting in the marines or in World War 2 didn’t change him, but leading the Corleone family and fighting mob wars has.

When we found out Kay (Diane Keaton) had an abortion because she didn’t want to bring his son into the world, we know Michael will never trust or forgive anyone again. He knew Fredo (John Cazale) didn’t have the capabilities or the intelligence to harm or threaten him ever again, but he still orders him to be killed. Michael feels he must wipe out all his enemies off the planet. He needs absolute safety. Absolute certainty that he’ll win. He needs absolute power. Even if that means destroying families – namely, one: his own.

If anything in this life is certain, if history’s taught us anything, it’s that you can kill anyone.

Michael

Vito never forgets who he is. He was proud of his son because he wasn’t involved in his business, because he fought in the war, because he believed he could go on to do greater things. But who would the next Godfather be? All his children are flawed. Fredo lacked brains and courage, Sonny was too hot headed, and Tom wasn’t leader material or true blood. But what they all had was understanding of the Corleone way of life. That morality of family balances out the evils they commit. An example of this is when Frank Pentangeli, who is brilliantly played by Michael V. Gazzo, sees his brother in the hearing at the almost McCarthy-like testimony. From that point, he could never confess. Michael doesn’t have this understanding. The truth is, Michael was never the right man for the job. And, perhaps, deep down, this is why Vito favoured him the most.

Is The Godfather: Part II about the mafia? I don’t think it is, and certainly less than the first. It’s the life long struggle of one man. He seems resentful of the fact that he has to put other people and this ‘business’ bestowed upon him before himself. His father’s empire was built upon strength and respect. His is built upon fear and treachery. While Don Vito overthrew the totalitarian Fanucci to save his slum and bring a better life for everyone, Michael inherits Vito’s throne, but has sadly become more like Fanucci. Michael says, “My father taught me many things.” But he failed to learn his father’s most important lesson.

Michael is pretty much the perfect antihero – a protagonist who’s also the malignant force within the story. Obvious examples would be Tony Soprano, Marty Byrde or Walter White. Audiences root for the antihero, but can end up being dragged down into a black lagoon. Personally, I love them. They’ve moulded some of the greatest films and, usually, TV shows ever made. But the biggest problem that comes with an antihero is the finale. There are two options: either, their death, or something worse than death. Michael gets his just desserts – isolation, alienated from everyone. He lacks the thing that’s at the heart of the story – family. The death of his brother, destruction of his sister, and banishment of his wife from his children’s lives is a pretty good ending for me.

A few articles back I made the argument that The King of the Comedy is the best film ever. Am I allowed to change my answer? The Godfather: Part II is the best film ever made – period. Some of you might not agree. If so, please, make your argument in the comments section below so I can tell you how shameful your answer is. I look forward to it!

The Godfather: Part II – 9.5 out of 10

20 Comments

  1. Great read, I really must revisit this trilogy soon. King of Comedy is pretty great but Taxi Driver is something else.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You must. What a film. I feel like I may just give it a cheeky watch right now. It’s amazing. I don’t think people like King of Comedy as much as me – I guess it just appeals to me in a lot of ways. I find it very funny. And Taxi Driver? A masterpiece. It’s true. The isolation and subsequent moral demise is beautifully captured. May give that a rewatch tonight as well!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well I think it’s a very good movie for sure, but impossible to say ‘the best ever’ (as you know having changed your mind once already!). I like too many movies to put just one above the rest. Nice disection of the movie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Fraggle, of course, there’s no such thing as ‘the best ever’. But when a film comes along that reaches such heights, I think it deserves recognition. The Godfather: Part II is truly something else. Be interested to know what you would put in your best bunch…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I tried to do a best of bunch for you, but I just can’t choose from so many that I love.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. No worries. It’s a pretty trivial and useless task, but I find it fun. By the end of the year, I expect that list.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. As with the structurally similar Mamma Mia films, it’s interesting that the second entry moves the story forwards in time while similtaneously exploring the backstory, knitting the two together to form one narrative. Will you be covering the Mamma Mia franchise in the same detail?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course. I’m trying to do all the greatest films justice, and leaving the Mamma Mia series out would be farcical.

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      1. Great; do you think Coppola stole the structure from Mamma Mia 2, or is it just coincidence?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, it was 44 years after The Godfather: Part II, but I think there’s something there…

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Alex Good says:

    Ranking the best is always tricky because people change and all that. Depends on what you’re in the mood for. This would definitely be in my top 10 though. One of the tests is rewatchability and I’ve seen it many times. It is partly drawn on Puzo’s book though, at least as I remember it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve already been disowned by Fraggle about this. I’ll admit, in a few years I could not like as as much, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Over-The-Shoulder in a few years would have to not know what they’re talking about.

      In terms of the book, Part II takes the characters, and a few elements, such as Vito’s backstory, but the whole Hyman Roth element with Cuba and Michael’s decline I’m pretty sure isn’t in there. I haven’t read it though, and I don’t trust Google, so you tell me.

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      1. Alex Good says:

        I read it years ago and I’ve mostly forgotten it, but my understanding was that the main arc was all there and that Coppola saw the two films as telling that single story. You still get that today where people say that parts one and two really constitute one movie. That used to be a pretty common line, though I don’t think it’s used as much today.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well well well. Either I need to change that in the post, or order the book and read it to prove you wrong… Tough call.

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        2. Alex Good says:

          I think all the flashback stuff about the rise of Vito Corleone was from Puzo’s book. Then the present-day story was added. So maybe half and half.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Ola G says:

    Godfather II is indeed a masterpiece, but among Coppola’s movies I still like Apocalypse Now! more 😉 BTW, Godfather is one of the very few instances (not sure there are any other, actually) where I prefer the movie to the book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, sorry! Apologies for such a late reply! This, somehow, completely slipped my mind. I thought I already replied – WP can be so annoying sometimes. I promise it won’t happen again! Apocalypse Now is a classic, but I think it’s a flawed film. It’s amazing we’re even having his discussion, and shows how good a filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola is. I’ve flirted with the idea of getting the book (do you recommend?) but so far have decided against. It would have to of been a ridiculously good book to be better than film! Thanks the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ola G says:

        No worries! 😀
        I actually think the book is better! It’s really amazing, though in recent times it’s been accused of covert racism – but I’d argue that for its own times it wasn’t. Apocalypse Now! is for me a classic movie about the madness and amorality of war; I’d even go as far as to say that Godfather II is actually the mirror image of this problem, only the war is taken into a civilian situation of a Western society by the veteran – and Pacino plays alter ego of Brando, his Michael Corleone an iteration of Kurtz 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Covert racism? That’s interesting – in what way? Is it because it represents Italians as all being mafia gangsters?

          That’s an interesting point – most films or TV shows are, deep down, really the same stories. What makes them different is the way or perspective they’re told. Both are about wars, but one is set in the Vietnam war and the other is in, as you say, Western civilization. It’s definitely got me thinking. I wonder if it was intentional from Coppola as a sort of juxtaposition…

          Liked by 1 person

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