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The Godfather Part II
1974 - R - Mins.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Producer: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton
Review by: John Ulmer
When Francis Ford Coppola returned to direct "The Godfather Part II," his mission was to create a sequel as compelling, involving, interesting, and downright exhilarating as the original. Everyone told him it was impossible. He made the impossible possible.

This sequel is just as terrific as the first film, if not more so. I hesitate to call it a sequel, as "sequel" is quite simply the wrong word I am looking for. A film like "The Matrix Reloaded" is a sequel - a blockbuster blast that returns the characters from the original in a new storyline. "The Godfather Part II" is something more. It is more of a chapter than a sequel. A continuation, if you will. The same characters are all here - at least those who survived the original, that is - but when I call it a "sequel," it strikes the wrong cord. It is as if both films are one, divided into two separate chapters. When you read a novel, and someone asks you if you liked it, you don't say, "Yeah, but I liked the first chapter better than the second and so on." You either like or dislike the novel. Think of "The Godfather Part II" as a chapter in a novel; it is a true continuation, nothing more.

This film won six Oscars in 1974, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro). It deserved every one. It involves the viewer from the start and never lets up. Particular aspects I enjoy in this film are the flashbacks to Don Vito Corleone as a child immigrating to New York City after social problems in his homeland, Sicily. I like the intertwining of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), his son, in present day, dealing with his crime inheritance, and Vito (Robert De Niro), his father, years ago. I like how, as Michael comes to terms with his family legacy, the film shows us Vito coming to terms with his future. The day he shoots that man in a gritty apartment complex is a turning point in his life.

As I write this review, "The Godfather Part II" holds the no. 3 spot on the IMDb's list of the top 250 films of all time. “The Godfather” is currently taking the no. 1 spot. I guess people still do have good taste in film - but the fact that "The Lord of the Rings" made it to the no. 1 spot for close to a month startles me just a bit. Are filmgoers so cinematically naive nowadays to vote every blockbuster they see a "10"?

Every actor is in top form here. Al Pacino has gradually made the move from a man who denies his future to a man who is accepting it. His character is the spotlight of this film, much more so than in the first film (though both center around his decisions).

Robert De Niro is particularly wonderful and convincing as a young Vito Corleone, who was of course played by the constantly-spoofed Marlon Brando in the original. De Niro takes an iron grip on his character and completely engulfs himself; this was, in 1974, the sign of an actor who would go places. Indeed, he did. Among his other film contributions was Martin Scorsese's classic tale of loneliness, "Taxi Driver"; Michael Simino's tale of friendship, "The Deer Hunter"; Martin Scorsese's fact-based drama "Raging Bull," based on the life of boxer Jake LaMotta; Sergio Leone's true epic "Once Upon a Time in America"; as Al Capone in "The Untouchables"; and Martin Scorsese's true story of gangsters in "Goodfellas."

Coppola's magical sense of direction is at work here, as is the terrific script by Coppola and Mario Puzo (whose novels the series is based upon). The original was a wonderful film, with wonderful direction, but the sequel presents more of a challenge. Flashbacks are often intercut in the middle of a film at the wrong time; Coppola inserts his flashbacks here like clockwork, ticking back and forth and coming into play right when the audience either (a) wants them or (b) does not want them, which is always the best thing. Sometimes an audience wants a flashback if they're getting tired of a scene - sometimes they don't want a flashback because they are involved in a current story and are hooked on the screen. Coppola inserts his flashbacks at just the right moments. If he feels a scene is too long, he gets a flashback going. If he feels the current story could benefit from a flashback that is reminiscent of the current matters, he inserts one. And if the audience is at the height of tension, awaiting the end of a scene, he will insert a flashback and the audience will soon forget about the scene they were involved in minutes ago - until the flashback is over and the "present time" scene starts up again. Then they are really at attention.

It takes a great kind of skill to master something like this, much less a sequel to one of the most beloved films of all time. "The Godfather" was an instant classic upon its release in 1972. Coppola had two years to plan for his continuation of the film. People told him it wouldn't work, he would never beat the original, and he would never pull it off. But he showed them all. "The Godfather Part II" may well be the best sequel I have ever seen in my entire lifetime. Oh boy, there I go again with that word, "sequel." I really hate that word. Continuation: That's a word I really have to keep in mind next time I'm coughing up a review on a sequel. Argh, there I go again. D'oh!
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

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