Not all films age gracefully. Over time the plot becomes dated, the characters seem less relatable, and the special effects and cinematography look old-fashioned. However, certain films — such as classics like “Casablanca” — manage to transcend that. They are both a product of their time and timeless, and they are still just as worth watching today as when they were first released.
Another one of those films is Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” Although it’s now more than 40 years old, the famous Mafia classic is still considered one of the best films ever made. It’s a story of violence and sacrifice, life and death, and love and loss. I watched it for the first time this week as part of my movie bucket list blogging project, and I can see why it won several Academy Awards. It remains a masterpiece.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Marlon Brando plays Vito Corleone, the patriarch — or “Don” — of a powerful New York crime family. Al Pacino plays his young son Michael, who resents his father’s involvement in the criminal underworld and wants no part in the family’s shady dealings. However, when an assassination attempt by a rival crime dynasty almost claims his father’s life, Michael faces a difficult choice and must decide what is more important: holding onto his standards and remaining detached from his family’s criminal ties, or defending his family and exacting revenge on the men who tried to harm his father. Michael chooses the latter, and his decision changes the course of his life forever.
Although “The Godfather” is a very well-known movie, I managed to avoid most of the spoilers and was able to watch this movie without knowing exactly what would happen. I was surprised when Don Corleone was gunned down fairly early in the film’s run time, because I had assumed he would be the main character. However, the film is actually more about his son Michael, who ends up having a fascinating character arc.
Michael becomes more like his father throughout the film. I was intrigued by the contrasts within their characters — they can both be cold and ruthless men, gunning down those who threaten the family. Yet they also have a sense of deep love for and loyalty to their families, and are willing to sacrifice their own safety to protect their loved ones. We realize just how much Michael has changed in the movie’s final scene, when his wife asks him whether he really did have his sister’s traitorous husband killed. Michael says no, but he, his wife — and we the viewers — know the truth. It’s a great ending to a great film.
The film has a solid ensemble cast, featuring performances from young actors who would go on to become major players in Hollywood, such as Pacino, Diane Keaton and Robert Duvall. The film is both violent and elegant, accompanied by a haunting score from Nino Rota that includes one of the now best-known movies themes. I recognized quite a few famous lines in the movie, such as “I’m gonna make him an offer he won’t refuse” and “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.” “The Godfather” remains a powerful, well-made movie. My favorite scenes were watching the dynamics within the Corleone family and between the other Mafia leaders in New York, and the ending, where Michael lies to his wife about killing his sister’s husband but they both accept it, because the truth is dangerous. I thought that moment perfectly captured the theme of the film.
Well, “The Godfather” was technically the last of the films I mentioned as part of my original movie bucket list blogging project list, but I’ve had a lot of fun catching up on famous films and movie classics I hadn’t seen yet. I still have more films I could add to my list — such as “Ghostbusters” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” — that I’m planning to review later on. Thanks for reading!