18 sept. 2010

My Review: The Godfather (10/10)

¨I`ll make him an offer he can`t refuse.¨

Many people consider the 70`s to be the Golden Age in Cinema, and if that is the case then Francis Ford Coppola had a great deal to do with it. During that decade he directed The Godfather Part 1 and 2, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now; he also produced American Graffiti, and wrote the screenplay for Patton. During that time he won 5 Oscars and was nominated for another seven. At least one of these films is on everybody`s favorite movies list, and The Godfather is considered by many critics to be the best film of all time. Despite being nominated for eleven Oscars it only took home three (Best Picture, Best Performance by Marlon Brando, and Best Screenplay), just one more confirmation that a film can`t be judged by the amount of awards it receives. The Godfather deserves much more. It is a movie that has transcended time and is enjoyed by everyone even decades after its first release. It was the first of its kind to portray the mafia from the inside and Coppola does a great job at romanticizing them and making us root for these criminals. How does he do it? By showing us the mafia as a strong and united family that supports each other; portraying the good guys as bad (there are corrupt cops and politicians); and making Vito Corleone stand out from the rest of the criminal families by not wanting to get involved in the drug business. He completely romanticizes the Corleone family and has us rooting for them from the very first scene thanks to a very intelligent script co-written with Mario Puzo who had previously written the bestselling novel. The script is amazing, the performances are great, and the direction from Coppola is just superb. All these elements combine perfectly to create this classic masterpiece.

We are introduced to Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in the opening scene. He is head of one of the five New York Mafia families, and is attending his daughter`s wedding. The wedding serves as a great excuse for Coppola to introduce all the characters because the entire family is gathered at the wedding. Vito is the Godfather for many of the people invited and he is treated with a great deal of respect. Tradition has it that no Sicilian can refuse requests on their daughter`s wedding day, so Vito is attending some of his associates who are in need of favors. His sons Sonny (James Caan) and Fredo (John Cazale) are in the family business along with Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), the family lawyer and consigliere, who was adopted by Vito at a very young age and is like a son to him as well. His youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), a World War II veteran shows up with his girlfriend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) and is talking to her about his family. This conversation also serves as a perfect excuse to hear anecdotes about the family`s criminal life and we are informed at once that Michael is the only one who is not involved in the family business. He has decided to stay away from the criminal lifestyle and is respected by his family. The entire plot takes place inside the world of the Corleone family and during a time where significant change begins to take place. Vito will have to make an important decision whether or not the family should protect a wealthy man named The Turk (Al Lettieri) who is trying to bring heroin into the city, or stick to the harmless gambling and alcohol business. He better think things carefully because his decision could have consequences.

The Godfather is without a doubt a masterpiece and the cast has a great deal to do with it. James Caan and Robert Duvall had worked with Coppola in his previous film, The Rain People, and now they returned again with significant roles. They give great performances, but who really stands out in this movie is Marlon Brando who really becomes the Don. He gives one of the most memorable and all-time best movie performances in film history. Al Pacino hadn`t made a significant movie before and the transformation he goes through in this film is incredible. His character is the one who experiences the most change if we recall his first appearance in the wedding and his last one in the Baptism scene. The screenplay is also very well written, the story completely hooks us from the very beginning, the characters are unforgettable, and Coppola just did a great job with the direction as he immersed us inside this world of crime. Of course we know that the mob world isn`t anything like this and it has been romanticized by Hollywood, but Coppola managed to make us care for these criminals who actually don`t see themselves as the villains. Nino Rota`s score is just amazing and breathtaking; it helps build the suspense.The Baptism parallel action scene is one of the best ones in film history and has since been imitated endlessly in most action films, although never with the same effect. This is required viewing for everyone, one of the greatest achievements in film history.

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