Okay, it's taken me so long to finally get around to watching this.
First of all there are a number of genres of film that I used to avoid. These being war films, horrors, sports films and mafia films. However, over the past few years I have dispelled these rules and have chosen to watch the "classics" regardless of genre. I have to say that The Godfather will become one of my favourite films of all time. It is incredible.
The movie centres around an Italian mafia family in New York (I could be mistaken of the city). There are many characters that are portrayed. There's Don Vito Corleone, the godfather and head of the family; Sonny, the eldest and second in charge; Michael, the "good" son who says at the beginning to have no part in the family business; and Tommy, the Don's adopted son and legal advisor. There's also other members of the family, rival crime families, hired hit-men and corrupt cops to add to the mix. It all culminates in a complex power struggle and gradually escalates into a war.
What I liked about the film was its intricate depth. There were so many characters and power dynamics that every scene was crucial to the story. I had to rewind frequently to understand where the plot was going or who the characters were discussing. Also, there was a lot of character development that changed the tone of the film as it progressed. The character, Michael, was a completely different person by the end. Even seeing the almighty Don Vito Corleone fall from his throne changed the power dynamic and thus the characters changed to accommodate the holes left by him. The entire hierarchy was fascinating.
In terms of production value, it was exceptional. For a film that came out in 1972 it has not aged at all. The acting was top-notch, especially Marlon Brando's performance as the godfather, just spectacular. I didn't even realise Al Pacino was in this film until half-way through. He was so young in this role; he seemed so untainted.
Camera work and lighting were a work of art. The music was perfectly scored with a haunting theme that permeated throughout. Other musical themes were very Italian-esque, underlying the film like the underlying Italian traditions even a modern American crime family would keep. Sound design wise, it was good, never sounding fake but also never over-the-top. Sound was used often as a device to create tension and to juxtapose scenes. For example the scene at the start, joyous wedding celebration music is heard in the background while the Don discusses men to eliminate. Another example is a pivotal scene where a character is about to shoot two people in a restaurant and a train passes by resulting in heightened tension.
The Godfather is cinema at its greatest. All aspects are considered and executed remarkably. Acting, music, camerawork, sound design, costumes, lighting, all perfect. To me it doesn't get any better than this. I'd give it a 10 out of 10.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Written by Mario Puzo (screenplay and novel), Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay). Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Sterling Hayden, Talia Shire, John Marley, Richard Conte, Al Lettieri etc.