Saturday, May 9, 2009
Movie Review: "The Godfather" (Book Review is Forthcoming)
"The Godfather: A Movie You Can't Refuse"
Many moviegoers identify themselves by genre—-horror, chick flicks, action, comedies. There are a rare few movies that can be thoroughly enjoyed by film connoisseurs of all types. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 gem The Godfather, based on Mario Puzo’s book of the same title, is one of those movies.
The Godfather is the story of Mafia boss Don Vito Corleone, who maintains his status as leader of the most powerful of New York City’s “Five Families” by masterfully balancing favors with payback. When Don Corleone’s position is threatened by a sneak attack backed by an anonymous member of one of the other families, New York City quickly becomes the battleground for a Mob turf war unlike any seen before. There is sufficient gun action, car chases, and gore to satisfy the most bloodthirsty theater attendee.
This unavoidable violence makes it easy to overlook the emphasis on family, a theme recurrent in The Godfather. Don Corleone is a man resigned to his fate; as an Italian immigrant, he has long been aware that his life, out of necessity, will be one of hard work, violence, and balancing the good and bad both within himself and in the world he lives in. However, Don Corleone had always dreamed of a better life for his four children, but his first two sons, Santino (or “Sonny”) and Fredo decide to stay with the “Family Business” and his daughter, Connie, marries an abusive man primarily interested in moving quickly up the rungs of the ladder that is the Corleone family. It is only his youngest child, Michael, that opts for the American dream; a decorated war hero, Michael attends an ivy league college and dates a girl from a small town in New Hampshire. However, Michael is awakened from that dream when an assassination attempt on his father is nearly successful. Michael Corleone realizes when he returns home that his family is at war as surely as his country was when he fought overseas. He was willing to fight for his country, and he recognizes that he has no choice but to fight, and fight hard, for his family.
The movie is not without its comic moments as well. Two men dispatched to kill the man that set up Don Corleone’s assassination attempt hide their true purpose by stopping at a bakery along the way. After shooting the snitch during a bathroom break on the side of an abandoned road, the head hit man instructs his apprentice, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
While Puzo’s storyline is one of sheer genius and Coppola’s directing is masterful, it is the actors that truly make The Godfather shine. Marlon Brando as Don Corleone balances the regality of a king with the humility of an Italian peasant boy merely by his presence; the true gist of Vito Corleone is evident even before Brando speaks in what is possibly the most-imitated movie accent of all time. As Michael, Al Pacino is able to believably change from a naïve college boy to a hardened Mafiosio in the course of the film, and a pre-Rocky Talia Shire gives a powerful performance in the supporting role of Connie Corleone. Also noteworthy are a young Robert Duvall as Consigliere-by-necessity Tom Hagen and James Caan as the hot-headed but big-hearted Sonny Corleone.
The Godfather is a film that lived up to the hype surrounding it in every way, and it is as enjoyable and relevant today as it was in 1972. This epic film truly deserved its Best Picture Oscar. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, you’ll turn your face away in disgust, and you will never forget the many lessons in the movie.