Of all the films I haven’t seen, when I quietly tell people I haven’t seen ‘The Godfather’ I am met with shrieks of bewilderment and shock. Last week, I decided to end this once and for all; I had a Saturday evening all to myself, the living room television wasn’t booked up by people wanting to watch sports or soaps and I was in the mood to be blown away harder than a rival gang member who had pissed off the Corleone’s. Yeah, that’s an in-joke for people who’ve seen the film, I’m one of you now.
The story here centres around the aforementioned Corleone family, a powerful Sicilian Mafia headed by Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). I’m not going to say too much here at all, because the story is the key to just how brilliant ‘The Godfather’ is, but basically all sorts of shit kicks off, lots of guns are fired and plenty of people die. It’s a story which peaks and troughs like a beautiful classical symphony – from brutal, all-guns-blazing war on the streets, to dialogue-laden, intense meetings, and the whole thing is incredibly riveting.
The iconic figurehead, Don Vito Corleone is portrayed to perfection by the legendary Marlon Brando. Every minute action or word is methodically carried out by Brando, from a scratch of the cheek to “an offer they can’t refuse”, this is a chilling and captivating performance and I now understand exactly why the Godfather himself has become such a monument of cinematic history. Across a wide range of supporting roles, the standout is by far and away Al Pacino – as Michael Corleone – heir to a throne he doesn’t particularly want. The character development for Michael is truly phenomenal; credit to excellent writing and a beautifully executed, transformative performance from Mr Pacino.
Ranked at number 2 in the IMDb top 250 (closely followed by ‘The Godfather Part II’ in third place), I’ve always put off watching this film because I was almost afraid of how good it would (or should) be. I knew that ‘The Godfather’ was almost definitely going to be a life-changing film and that I would love it, but with that came some pressure – on both the film to live up to expectations, and on myself to love it as much as everyone else. Lo and behold, expectations were met and I was thoroughly blown away. Visually speaking, ‘The Godfather’ is at times rather dated, not least in terms of blood and gunfire, but as I mentioned before, this is all about the story, and what a story it is. The level of authenticity, depth of the characters and sheer poetry of some of the dialogue turns a simple Mafia movie into a true masterpiece.
Francis Ford Coppola has been getting praise for over 40 years now for this film, and I doubt there’s much left for me to say that hasn’t already been said. Regardless, the praise has to keep on coming and this film should be used as a benchmark for what filmmaking is truly all about; storytelling. ‘The Godfather’ has entered my top 20 films instantly, with the potential to rise for sure upon a rewatch (or six). There are so many layers to the story and so much to absorb and enjoy that I will definitely be watching ‘The Godfather’ again, and soon too. This is, and always will be, the definitive crime-drama. Enter, ‘The Godfather Part II’.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall