Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather might be the best made film I've ever seen, and the sequel does plenty to live up to that standard of cinematography, editing, and acting. I don't think it's an insult to say it doesn't quite live up the the original's standard of storytelling, because it's still an outstanding film and that's a hell of a thing to live up to. I had no issue with any individual element of the movie, I just don't think the overall character arc is quite as fascinating as in the first. In Part I, Michael Corleone is a war hero who slowly gets sucked into his family's criminal business due to loyalty to his father and a decade of desensitization to the wrongs he's committing. He eventually finds himself as don of the whole family. It's a transformation that's fascinating to watch. in Part II, Michael's the godfather. And he's the godfather for the whole movie. Lots of interesting stuff happens to his character, including some pretty brutal personal things in the second half. But while he descends deeper into the role of ruthless crime lord, the arc is just less distinct. It felt more like watching a few episodes of a brilliant crime show than a self contained, fulfilling story.

Again, I don't want to undersell how good this film is. It's one of the best of the decade. It just didn't quite match the first, to me. There's a lot going on, and it's definitely a movie that gets better the closer attention you pay to it. Bit characters from the first film show up to play important parts, there's a dense web of deception and backstabbing that's quite a bit of work to keep up with, and it's as interesting a straight gangster tale as I've ever seen. The flashback segments featuring Robert De Niro as a young Vito Corleone, depicting his rise to power in 1920s New York, are pretty brilliant, and I might have gotten more out of the film as a whole if they got a bigger share of the 200 minutes rather than feeling like a distinct B story to the main one of Michael's struggles. The mostly returning cast is brilliant, Al Pacino further proved himself to me as a master of the craft in his younger days, Robert Duvall continues to make Hagen one of the most sympathetic characters despite his somewhat thankless role, and Diane Keaton has a lot more to do this time, showing she deserved to be in several of the 70's best films. I don't really know many other actors here by name, but no one would have made it into the movie if they didn't know what they were doing. There's not much else to say about it without going into the specifics of the story, which I feel would be a disservice. I don't have to tell anyone this, but the Godfather movies deserve to be seen by anyone who likes the medium for more than just a few laughs and explosions.

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