12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This is the One,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Godfather (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
This is the greatest American film of all time. It may not have been the slickest piece of film-making or broke any new ground but it's themes, the importance of family, both biological and professional, resonate to this day. In this case the families happen to be both Italian-American and Mafia, but that's just incidental. I've never read the novel that this is based on but it's my understanding that Mario Puzo's book is pulpier than than the film that Francis Ford Coppola made of it. That is one of the reasons that this film is elevated above all others in that it could have been soapier and glitzier than it was but it did not succumb to that and credit has to be given to Coppola as both screenwriter and director for that. Coppola emphasized in his script it's most important theme, family, and concentrated on developing characters instead of stereotypes. Yes, some people remember the more violent and sensational aspects of this film. We also know the people in this film. The Corleone's are as familiar to us as either are own family or neighbors. Marlon Brando gives an appropriately subdued performance here as Don Vito Corleone. His character seems melancholic and rueful, seeming to be mourning his situation in life or the changing ways of his chosen way of life, yet accepts the reality and the responsibilities that come for a man in his position. Al Pacino in his second film, his first being the little seen "Panic in Needle Park", is dynamic as Michael, the son that the Don wanted better things for but because of changing circumstance is drawn into the family business. Michael is to prove that he is more than up to the challenge of settling scores. James Caan as Sonny, the heir apparent to the Don who may be a little to emotional and hot-headed for the job, does tremendous work here. Robert Duvall is also good in the role of Tom Hagen, adopted son of the Corleones, who acts as lawyer for the family's business. It also should be noted that John Cazale appears here as Fredo, the ineffectual Corleone son. Fredo's character isn't really developed until the second installment of this saga but I would like to note that Cazale, who died young in 1978 but made the most of his short life. Besides appearing in the first two "Godfather" films he also appeared and was quite effective in "The Conversation", "Dog Day Afternoon", and "The Deer Hunter", released after his death. There are may other great actors (Talia Shire, Richard Castellano, etc.) so numerous who do good work here. Some would feel that "The Godfather" is a romanticized depiction of the Mafia but I don't see that as the case. "The Godfather" is a good story whose milieu is incidentally in the world of organized crime. On a final note, Coppola contributes an excellent and very informative commentary to the film on the DVD that enhances the viewing of the film particularly for those who've seen it numerous times.