B rilliantly filmed, elegantly beautiful locations, a fine cast, original and exquisite soundtrack and two delightful stories put together into one masterpiece. That is how I could start describing the second part of The Godfather Saga. After seeing the first part I was sure that I would have to look very hard for a better movie but I only had to watch its follow-up: The Godfather II. Francis Ford Coppola took the reins of the second movie as he had done with the first one but only after negotiating full control over the movie. He decided to divide the film into two separate but at the same time intertwined stories: Vito Corleone’s origins and rise to power as Don Corleone and his youngest son life as the Don.
Al Pacino delights us once again with a very strong and ice cold performance as Michael Corleone, who finishes the first part of the saga as the new Don and is now trying to handle the family business as best as he can. As the young Vito Corleone we can see the great Robert De Niro in what many call his greatest performance ever, Diane Keaton as Mrs. Corleone, Robert Duvall as the family lawyer Tom Hagen, John Cazale and Talia Shire as Fredo and Connie Corleone respectively. Some new additions were made to the cast from the original movie: Lee Strasberg with a superb performance as Hyman Roth, a Jewish business man who lives in Florida and Michael Gazzo as Frankie Pentangelli. Just as Robert de Niro, they both received Academy Awards for Best Supporting Role, but De Niro won the statue.
The movie received 20 nominations and 17 wins in total, some of them were Best Picture, Best Director, Best Music and a couple more. A sequel surpassed only by a few others (the Dark Knight comes to my mind), if not by none, The Godfather II proved what happens when the Director Francis Coppola had full control over the movie and how it was going to be filmed. Two stories condensed in one movie, which is divided in two parts, tell us what really moved the latest Don and the actual one. Al Pacino really changed how we perceived Michael Corleone from the first Godfather, John Cazale stole the spotlight in one particular scene with Al Pacino and Diane Keaton’s performance is splendid as well as Talia Shire’s. As for Lee Strasberg, De Niro and Michael Gazzo, their nominations speak for themselves.
Francis Coppola first takes us to Sicily, Italy, hometown of the Corleone family, to Vito’s first encounters with death and local Mafia boss, Don Ciccio. Vito had to escape his hometown for his sake and fled to New York City, where he would stablish himself in the Hell’s Kitchen and grow next to his fellow Italians. Life wasn’t easy for young Vito but he always showed a calm and respectful manner, which earned him the respect of his family and neighbors. His story is one of survival, of love and devotion for the family and respect and care for others. Those three elements are what Don Corleone is mainly made of in the first part of The Godfather saga and in the second part we take a closer look into the steps he took the become the Don.
On the other hand we have Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who has to deal with the Corleone family current affairs. Tom Hagen is still his right hand when handling business but Fredo and Connie are giving him trouble, due to their terrible life partners’ choices. At the same time, he has to deal with pressure from Pentangelli and Roth, who do not seem to get along well. Don Michael Corleone knows that there is someone close to him who has betrayed him and he remembers his father’s valuable words: keep your friends close but your enemies closer. People who have eaten at the same table with him and his family are betraying him and the circle of people whom he can trust grows thinner.
A story of family love, loyalty and betrayal, filmed in exotic and beautiful locations such as Santo Domingo (portrayed as Cuba), Miami, Lake Tahoe and Sicily. It is 3 hours and 20 minutes long but it is time well-spent, watching an amazing story where all the elements are perfectly aligned and in harmony. In other words, you cannot go to the grave without enjoying this excellent masterpiece!