Length: 200 minutes
Release Date: December 20, 1974
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Genre: Crime / Drama
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
This outstanding film is the second installment of director Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy. The movie received high praise from virtually all of the critics upon its release and won the Oscar for best picture. The film also won five other Oscars in various categories and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards in total. In addition to the many awards it collected upon its release, “The Godfather Part II” stands high on many prestigious lists of the world’s greatest films. The movie ranks 32nd on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest movies ever made.
“The Godfather Part II” explores the rise of a family of immigrants and how the decisions made by the father affect the lives of his children. The movie makes extensive use of flashbacks and moves back and forth in time to tell its haunting and memorable narrative. The persuasive storytelling techniques used by the director add a strong note of authenticity to the film. The tight script is yet another reason for the movie’s intense impact on the audience.
One of the unique aspects of “The Godfather Part II” is that it tells two parallel stories. One story is set in the 1950s. It concerns the dilemma of crime boss Michael Corleone as he considers whether to enter into a business deal with another boss, Hyman Roth. The deal is not something Michael really wants, but he is hesitant to offend Roth by declining his offer. The second story is set in the early decades of the 20th century. This part of the movie shows the struggles of Michael’s father, Vito Corleone, as he attempts to become a powerful crime lord.
Michael’s father, portrayed as a young man by Robert De Niro, must make a fateful choice. Vito must decide whether to eke out a marginal living doing various odd jobs or turn to crime. His decision to commit crimes and even murder a powerful gangster in order to improve his circumstances dictates the course of his future. De Niro’s sensitive performance allows the viewer to feel the pain of Vito’s situation and perhaps even sympathize with the choices he makes.
The theme of corruption and how greed and the lust for power lead to a loss of connection to fellow human beings is also evident in a subplot involving a U.S. senator. This ambitious, crooked politician is destroyed by his involvement with the Corleone family. He is blackmailed by Michael and must do the family’s bidding. The compromised senator is forcefully acted by G.D. Spradlin.
Another stunning performance comes from actor Lee Strasberg who plays the conniving crime boss Hyman Roth. Strasberg, a legendary acting teacher, is utterly convincing as a man willing to do anything to retain his position of power. He exudes a chilling menace that stays with the viewer long after the film has ended.
In addition to the fine performances, the film’s striking set design and cinematography also help to create a stunning sense of time and place. The audience’s suspension of disbelief is greatly enhanced by the movie’s extraordinary attention to detail. The filmmakers use of historically accurate props and sets immerses the viewer in the two separate time periods.
Yet another compelling aspect of this moving film is the ending. Set in another time frame, the ending flashes back to a dinner table where Michael and his siblings are awaiting the arrival of their father. The siblings discuss the patriotic obligations to one’s country and the duty that an individual has to his family. Michael tells the rest of the family that he has joined the Army to serve his country. It is clear from this conversation that Michael wants to make an unselfish choice to help others. The audience feels the poignancy of this scene, because they now know that Michael once had ambitions of being a better man than he actually became.
A vivid and persuasive look at the toll that violence and greed exacts on the human soul, “The Godfather Part II” stands the test of time. Every aspect of the film is executed on a remarkably high level. The many awards that the movie has garnered over the years have all been well deserved. No one can see this film and not come away deeply affected by its riveting story of an American crime family and its incisive commentary on the nature of good and evil. This film is an unforgettable experience, whether seen in a theater, on DVD or through online streaming.
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