“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.”
Ah, those infamous words spoken in The Godfather Part II by Michael Corleone and those words essentially define the route this sequel took. Mike is the head of his family, but he is broken, angry man and no one can escape his wrath, not even his poor older brother. This film is a film that laments for loss and is full of bitter emotions…….but this is also arguably one of the greatest sequels of all time to one of the greatest films of all time. This is one of favorite all-time films, and I wouldn’t hesitate to call it better than the first movie. This movie excels at everything, especially when it comes to storytelling. and the devolution of Michael Corleone’s humanity and morality. The film invokes emotion from us for many reasons from the sad but powerful score by Nino Rota, to the powerhouse acting from everyone in the cast especially from Al Pacino, a story that introduces the past effectively, a very shocking ending, tight editing, powerhouse directing by Francis Ford Coppola, and the list goes on and on. Sequels were not a commodity back in the day, and this sequel to the huge 1972 film The Godfather is one of the first of its kind. The success of this film is why today’s movie business relies upon sequels to make money. Regardless, this is one of the greatest films of all time.
This film continues the saga of the Corleone family as we continue from the events of the first film. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is trying to expand the family’s business into places like Hollywood and Cuba. His character takes a dive as he clashes with his brother Fredo (John Cazale), his lawyer Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), and his sister Connie (Talia Shire). He is suspicious of his business associates activities such as folks like Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) and Frankie Pentangeli (Michael Gazzo). But this film incorporates another story into this story: the past. We meet Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) when he was growing up in Sicily and emigrates to New York City where be becomes connected with the mob life.
I loved how the story is told thanks to the masterful storytelling by screenwriter Mario Puzo and director Coppola. They successfully tell two stories over the course of the movie without any trouble. Each story complements each other very well. The continuing saga of the present day family remains a high point. Of course the central character is Michael Corleone. The first film he was a man reluctant to take over the family business, but now he is turning into a control monster who trusts no one, not even his inner circle. It’s a sad thing to watch as his morality crumbles and the final scene-one of cinema’s most famous scenes, makes the case to show why Michael Corleone turns into a monster.
I enjoyed the flashback sequences featuring young Vito. De Niro absolutely nails his role as Vito and he inherits the older Vito’s mannerisms very well. It was fun to see how Vito turned into the man we knew him from the first film. The scenes in Sicily, where he is connected with a local mob boss is very powerful because Vito’s mother was shot down. But that event helped turn Vito into the kind of man he was and to my happiness, Vito exacted the perfect kind of revenge. These scenes in Sicily and New York are beautifully shot and they really understood what New York was supposed to be in 1910.
This is a film full of performances, all of them wonderful. Pacino excels as Michael Corleone once again. I really wish he won an Oscar for this role because he deserved it. His performance was effectively scary. Robert De Niro was absolutely amazing as the younger Vito and his role showed the kind of versatility this man has. Diane Keaton was effective as Kay. This film has Kay standing up to his man as she eventually leaves his side. Duvall is always great as Tom Hagen. John Cazale has a bigger part in the second film, as he tries to do what’s best but simply does not have the brains and ultimately pays the price. His performance was a powerful one. Then we have the likes of the little known actors who gave an impression like Lee Strasberg who played the business partner Hyman Roth who wants Michael killed and Michael Gazzo who plays Frankie, a relative and associate of Michael’s.
There are some interesting things I have noticed. Just like the first film, this film has a big party sequence in the opening. Michael is seen in the office talking about business. This is a great homage to the first film. I liked how the film incorporated real history in its events. The beginning of the film has young Vito at Ellis Island, a major immigration center for potential Americans and being denied entry at first due to sickness. Then, this film also uses the Cuban Revolution for a story arc. Fidel Castro actually takes Cuba while Michael was there.
The Godfather Part II is one of the greatest films of all time. The Godfather is an amazing film, but this one may just be a tad better. That is a rarity because 1.) Just look at the quality of the first film and 2.) sequels are rarely better than the original film. Speaking of sequels, this is the only sequel to this day that has won Best Picture at the Academy Award. Indeed, it’s a very amazing feat. Although to be taken with a grain of salt, but on the website IMDB, this movie is ranked #2 of all-time. That goes to show the commercial value of the movie. I loved this movie for many reasons. From Al Pacino’s wonderful performance to the chill-inducing score by Nino Rota. There was also a flashback sequence that harkens back to the first movie as it brings back James Caan although Marlon Brando declined because he felt underappreciated. Anyhow, Coppola does an amazing job with the first two movies in the series. That end shot……just wow.
My Grade: A+