Title: The Godfather (1972)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Al Lettieri and Sterling Hayden
The story follows the Corleone family, led by Don Vito Corleone (Brando), who runs a vast criminal enterprise in New York with the help of his sons. Sonny (Caan) is seen as the natural successor to the ageing Vito’s crown, but he is hot-headed and temperamental. Tom Hagen (Duvall) was adopted by the Corleones and now acts as an advisor/lawyer to the family. Favourite son Michael (Pacino) has just returned from World War Two and also wants to take part in the family business, despite not being taken seriously initially. After Vito survives an attempt on his life and Sonny is brutally murdered, Michael starts to assert his dominance, showing a hitherto unseen ruthless streak. Looking to avoid an all out war with the other New York families he hopes to settle and diversify in Nevada.
Marlon Brando returned to the fore after years in the wilderness with an incredible turn as the Corleone patriarch. Winning the Best Actor Oscar, he proved beyond doubt that class is permanent. Al Pacino was perfectly cast in his first major role and he duly delivered a highly revered performance. Amazingly, neither actor was considered initially with the studio preferring Laurence Olivier and Robert Redford for the respective roles. Pacino was considered too short and unproven and Brando was deemed to be past it. The rest of the cast was a dream come true, with both Caan and Duvall earning Oscar nods for Supporting Actor.
The Godfather is packed with classic scenes including the opening wedding, the horse’s head in the bed, Michael’s time in Italy, the restaurant meeting and Sonny’s bloody murder. Even the classic mistake of James Caan pulling a punch on his sister’s husband is required viewing.
The Godfather has fantastic cinematography, treating us to beautiful vistas in New York, Nevada and Sicily. The film is sometimes rather unfairly described as having a rather ‘brown’ colour scheme, but this is only true of certain scenes. The movie won Best Actor, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars, proving that the hype surrounding the film was entirely justified.
Since its release forty-four years ago, The Godfather has frequently been cited as one of, if not the best, films of all time. Transcending its violent content and subject matter, the film is also a wonderful character study and an absorbing look at family and the American dream. It currently sits at number two on IMDB’s Top 250 films list, which proves that the film is not just a hit with critics. Equally arresting with every viewing, it is literally the mother of all classics.