Last night we finished watching the second installment of the Godfather trilogy, "The Godfather: Part II."
At one point, I asked Ken, "Just how long IS this movie?!"
Not that I was disappointed with it, not at all, but we started watching it Wednesday night, and weren't able to get back to it until tonight. Even so, it took quite a while to watch the rest of it! After it was over, I looked on the box, and it's listed at 200 minutes. No wonder!
I can sum it all up in two words: another masterpiece.
Thanks for reading, see you next time!
Nah, you know I've got plenty more to say. You're not getting off that easy.
Al Pacino reprises his role as Michael Corleone, and delivers another unbelievable performance. We continue to see his evolution as the head of the most powerful Syndicate family in the country, and it's as stunning a transformation as in the first movie. In the first, we see him change from the youngest brother, fresh-faced, almost sweet in his demeanor, to the somewhat reluctant head of the family. In this movie, he continues to change into the ruthless leader who will stop at nothing to maintain his power and control his minions.
We are also introduced to Robert DeNiro as the young Vito Corleone (the elder Vito was played by Marlon Brando in the first movie), his immigration to America as a young boy, his struggles to provide for his young family, his introduction to organized crime, and his education in exerting influence and power. At first, it was confusing the way it jumped back and forth in time, but once we got used to that, we were able to follow it better. The scenes with DeNiro in 1920's New York City's Little Italy were fascinating, and so well done. I have a feeling it was quite authentic.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The movie begins with the funeral of Antonio Andolini, Vito's father, in their hometown in Sicily. The Andolini family (which will become the Corleones in America) is in a war with the local Mafia lord, Don Ciccio. Vito's mother pleads with Don Ciccio to spare the life of her young son. Ciccio refuses, kills Vito's mother, and orders his men to go after Vito and kill him. Vito escapes and manages to board a ship to America. At Ellis Island, the government official can't understand Italian, and when Vito says his hometown is Corleone, Sicily, the official writes down the boy's name as Vito Corleone.
As we watch Vito struggle to support his family and his transformation to Mafia lord, scenes of Michael's problems in the 50's and 60's are interspersed. We come to understand that Michael's eventual ruthlessness is a reflection of his old man...the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! Michael eventually finds out from honorary brother Tom Hagen that his father had big plans for him and discussed them with Tom. Did Vito recognize a lot of himself in Michael, and know that he would be the most powerful and cleverest Godfather of his three sons?
Michael continues to consolidate and grow his power, using such resources as a corrupt senator who murders a prostitute and calls on the Corleones to help him cover it up. Of course, any favor done for you by Don Corleone eventually will be repaid--in one way or another. The players and intrigue abound, including Jewish gangster Hyman Roth. With everyone Michael deals with, we are left wondering if they are friend or foe. Michael visits Roth in pre-Castro Cuba, and this was a fascinating glimpse into how volatile that country was at that time. We realize that Michael doesn't trust Roth, and in fact plans to murder him. The attempt goes awry, and he will have to deal with Roth another day. Michael finally realizes that he had been betrayed by his own brother, Fredo, and of course, this doesn't bode well for the weak Fredo, although Michael says he will never come to harm while their mother is alive.
Meanwhile, Michael's wife Kay has said she's leaving him and taking the children. In the argument that ensues, Michael says she will never take the children. Kay lashes out and tells Michael that her recent miscarriage was no miscarriage, she had actually had an abortion in order to not bring any more children into the crime family. I gasped at this point and said, "He's Catholic!" Michael strikes her, Kay leaves him...but the children stay with Michael.
Michael doesn't just have personal problems, as a Senate committee investigates Organized Crime, specifically the Corleones and Michael himself. Only one witness can verify that Michael ever gave any orders to have anyone killed, and when Michael enters the hearing room accompanied by the witness's brother, flown in from Italy, the witness refuses to testify against Michael, saying that he was just telling the FBI what they wanted to hear.
Michael has escaped being indicted, but still has plenty to deal with, mainly Hyman Roth. And of course, there are scores to be settled. The first comes with another flashback to the young Vito, who has become a powerful and wealthy Mafia lord in New York City. He and his family travel to his hometown of Corleone, where Vito has a meeting with Don Ciccio, the man who killed his father, mother, and brother. Don Ciccio is old, and believes that Vito is coming to pay him tribute. Instead, he gets a knife in the belly, and the debt has been paid. We return to Michael, and the movie culminates with him ordering the deaths of those who have betrayed him, including Roth, the FBI witness, and his brother Fredo, since their mother has recently died.
End of spoilers
Now for a few personal comments!
It's not uncommon for Ken and I to get comfy on the couch while watching a movie, and end up getting a little TOO comfy. There have been nights when we're watching a movie, and the next thing we know, it's midnight and we've got a blank screen staring at us. Not so with this movie. We were riveted! The twists and turns, friend or enemy, the subtle hints as to who was a betrayer...fascinating! There's a reason this is in the Top 5 movies of all time.
Was it better than the first one, as many have suggested? I wouldn't say better, but excellent in a different way. The first shows the passing of the torch to Michael Corleone as the Godfather, and this one shows how Vito got to that position in the first place...a little more background, a little fleshing out of the story, as well as Michael's present day operations. I would say that it's the best sequel of all time.
I'm usually not a big fan of subtitles, but they didn't bother me in this movie. I found the speaking of Italian gave it more authenticity, and it's a beautiful language, isn't it? Even when they're ordering a murder. Makes me want to learn Italian! (Not that I need to know how to give an order to murder someone.)
As the movie progressed, and someone would disrespect or betray Michael, I'd say, "Oh man...dead man walking" or "Dead man boating." If you disrespect Michael, you die. It might take a while, but you will pay. Chilling.