Coppola’s follow-up is even more ambitious in terms of narrative structure as he seamlessly explores themes of power, family and betrayal across time in one of cinema’s most astonishing sequels.
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire
Plot: The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate.
Awards: Won 6 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Original Score; Nom. for 5 Oscars – Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor (x2), Best Supporting Actress, Best Costume Design
Subject Matter: Moderate – Family, Loyalty, Betrayal, Crime
Narrative Style: Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
This is, of course, not my first time seeing The Godfather Part II—I’m just stumped that I haven’t done a review before. As a follow-up to The Godfather (1972), this has got to be one of the most astonishing sequels produced in cinematic history. It’s fruitless to compare which is better—both work differently and are structurally dissimilar.
Part II is more expansive in scope as director Francis Ford Coppola ambitiously pursues two timelines here: one continuing the trajectory of the first film with Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) dealing with his family and frenemies; the other, set decades earlier, features Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), Michael’s father, when he left Sicily to New York for a new beginning.
The seamless intercutting between these two narratives is quite staggering to behold as Coppola shapes a richer story of father-and-son as the stories reinforce the film’s themes of power, family and betrayal.
“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
Stripped down to its essentials, Part II can be best described in a tagline: what would my father have done? The film’s most extraordinary sequence has got to be when Vito tracks a local gangster from the rooftops as a lively religious parade occurs below.
Yet it is the film’s quieter moments of solitude where Coppola achieves the film’s true magnificence as Michael, lit in foreboding chiaroscuro, contemplates the crises unfolding around him.
Part II also features probably my favourite music cue by Nino Rota of the entire ‘Godfather’ trilogy—‘The Immigrant’—which accompanies Vito as he arrives in America, and becomes the main leitmotif of the picture. Still a colossal achievement no matter how many times you see it, The Godfather Part II will endure for a very long while.