Classic Film Review: The Godfather Part II (1974)

And the Oscar Goes to:

The Godfather Part II, 1974

Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, Morgana King, John Cazale, Marianna Hill, Lee Strasberg

 

One of only two sequels to win the Best Picture Oscar (the other being The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), but the only sequel to win where its earlier instalment also won. The Godfather Part II carries on the style and quality of The Godfather, but, unlike a lot of sequels, manages to make it stand out on its own and substantially different from its predecessor. It follows two timelines, one following Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) following on from the end of The Godfather, and the other follows a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter) upon his arrival in America. And while it carries on the style of the first, it also brings with it one thing I disliked from the first: Italian.

Unfortunately for a non-Italian speaker (and someone who watched a copy without subtitles) Vito Corleone’s entire story is presented in Italian (which is logical because he’s just come from Italy) and this really hampers that story as I found myself, for quite lengthy periods of the film at a time, lost with what was going on due to the language. And when Vito was killing people or being apparently threatened I had no idea as to why, and this was a shame as his earlier timeline built his character which we would ultimately see in The Godfather. And also with a large cast list, with each wearing very similar attire, at times it can be a bit confusing remembering who’s betraying whom and who’s working for whom, especially with a three-hour-plus running time, some characters we can go an hour without seeing.

However, it is still a really good film. The acting throughout is superb, and, even though I’ve aired my grievance on speaking Italian, Robert De Niro was so good and genuine I actually thought he was Italian for a second, and he managed to capture everything about Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Vito while adding a youthfulness and inexperience. The editing is also brilliant, with the soundtrack and the cut scenes (some scenes are beautifully presented) near-perfect.

It certainly copied a few traits from the first (the mass executions at the end, the betrayals) but it brought on a uniqueness to them that would make this film stand out on its own if The Godfather weren’t to have existed. While the crime genre isn’t my personal favourite (which didn’t make a trio of crime films particularly exciting heading into them) these films are brilliant, there is no denying that. Everything about the creation and the execution deserves praise, I just had a few personal issues with this film, and, I know it’s been hotly debated, but I prefer The Godfather to The Godfather Part II, I don’t know if that’s because I preferred Marlon Brando’s performance as the leader of the family to Al Pacino’s, or because it’s got more English (only a bit more) or because I saw it first.

 

Plot: * *     Acting: * * * * *     Writing: * * * *     Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¾

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