The Godfather (1972)
Immortal for its contribution to cinema & one of the prime examples of filmmaking art, The Godfather is a remarkable inside-out look at the life of a mafia family and also paints an astounding portrait of organised crime. Scoring full marks in all aspects of filmmaking, be it direction, screenplay, acting, cinematography, editing or music, this crime drama immerses viewers into its world from the very beginning and narrates its story with such strong magnetic grip for the next 3 hours that it’s impossible to not be impressed & amazed by it. Even after so many viewings, there is nothing to complain about this film, there is no weakness to exploit & with each view, the respect for this motion picture masterpiece only gets higher.
Based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo, The Godfather tells the story of Corleone family, a respectable & powerful family having major underworld influences which are overseen by Don Vito Corleone, who is termed as Godfather by his peers as a token of respect. But when Don Corleone refuses to enter the drug business, a series of events are set in motion which results in an assassination attempt on Don Corleone, increasing rivalries among the mafia families, and paves way for Don’s youngest son to rise & take up his father’s job in order to protect his family and to settle all disputes. The film revolves around Michael Corleone (Don’s youngest son) and even the main plot of the story is the evolution of Michael from a doe-eyed outsider, who didn’t want to get into the family business, into a ruthless boss later in the story.
The direction by Francis Ford Coppola is no short of amazement. The way he filmed most of the scenes from the very beginning to the end, the casting decisions he made, the shooting locations, the remarkable screenplay & memorable quotes co-written with Mario Puzo and the overall style of narration & look of the film, it’s all brilliantly done. Cinematography is carried out beautifully and the decision to shoot in Technicolor print pays off enormously well as it provided this film a vintage look that wonderfully matched the timeline it represents & also added an artistic flair to the whole medium. Editing is very precisely done with each character getting enough time on-screen without robbing its controlled pace. Nino Rota’s score opens the film with a sad, almost like a funeral theme music, and boasts tracks which sound very unusual for a crime drama but then it also fits the film’s ambience remarkably well. The overall work by the entire technical crew is as much responsible for this film’s success as the direction, writing & performances.
As far as the performances go, The Godfather features a cast of incredibly gifted actors in Marlon Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Diane Keaton, Richard S Castellano, Talia Shire, Al Lettieri & many more and everyone does a really great job. Marlon Brando makes Don Corleone truly his own, giving his character a set of unique look & traits and delivers, possibly, the greatest performance of all time which also immortalised the character of Don Corleone in cinema forever and permanently engraves Brando’s status as one of world’s finest actors. Al Pacino also makes his mark on the big stage & delivers the next great performance as Michael Corleone and his rise to power from a reluctant outsider into a ruthless mafia boss remains one of the most spectacular character arcs ever exhibited on film canvas. James Caan stars as Sonny Corleone, Don’s hot-headed eldest son, and I don’t recall Caan delivering any other performance of this calibre and same goes for Richard S. Castellano who plays Clemenza, a caporegime for the Corleone family. Other notable performances include Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, Diane Keaton as Kay Adams, Talia Shire as Connie Corleone, Abe Vigoda as Tessio and Al Lettieri as Virgil Sollozzo. All in all, there are no complains in this department too.
Telling a tale that spans 10 years of the Corleone family in 3 hours, while also reflecting the world of organised crime with immense character depth & complexity unlike anything before it and ingeniously blending it with impressive direction, sturdy writing, impeccable performances, striking quotes, innovative storytelling & a mesmerizing score, The Godfather is an exceptionally well filmed motion picture & certainly the one with the best cast. Ever since its release, it has become the benchmark by which all the great masterpieces are measured and its influence on cinema & especially gangster genre is unforgettable. On an overall scale, The Godfather is universally accepted as one of world cinema’s finest films, arguably the finest ever, and the performances by Marlon Brando & Al Pacino alone are the stuff of legends. Plus, this films also marks a significant moment in cinema, in my opinion, in which the baton was passed from Marlon Brando, the finest actor of his generation, to Al Pacino who later became the finest actor of the subsequent era. It doesn’t need my recommendation because it’s a must watch for any cinema lover. There are very few films which are unanimously hailed as a great one from critics, filmmakers & viewers all around the world and The Godfather is unquestionably one of those classics and, in my opinion, the only one that deserves the top spot. So go ahead if you haven’t seen this masterpiece yet. What are you waiting for? It’s a cinematic experience you should neither refuse nor ignore.