This brilliant companion piece to the original film continues the saga of two generations of successive power within the Corleone family. Coppola tells two stories in Part II: the roots and rise of a young Don Vito, played... more » with uncanny ability by Robert De Niro, and the ascension of Michael (Pacino) as the new Don.« less
An extraordinary sequel to a great American classic film
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 06/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although not quite as powerful or as unified as the original, THE GODFATHER II lays claim to possibly being the greatest sequel ever made. The film focuses on the twin stories of Michael Corleone's attempt to consolidate his power as Godfather of the Corleone family by, as he puts it, killing all his enemies. The latter primarily include a Jewish gangster who was a former associate of his father as a young man, a former associate who turns government witness, and his brother Fredo, who betrays Michael because he felt passed over and because in betraying Michael there would be "something in it for me." The other story told is that of the youth and young manhood of Vito Corleone, magnificently portrayed by Robert De Niro in one of his greatest performances, performing his role in Italian and doing a masterful job of mimicking Marlon Brando's intonations from the previous film. The story takes him from his earlier childhood, with the death of all the members of his family in Sicily, to his immigration to the United States, and eventual involvement in a life of organized crime.Much of the power of the second film comes from the contrast between the two stories. As Vito Corleone grows in power, he also grows as a family man, in both the sense of a father with children and a wife and in the extended sense in his role as Godfather. He becomes the center of a community, drawing others around him. But the other story, of the decay of all that Vito had built up through the leadership of Michael, betrays all the realities undergirding the delusions riddling Vito Corleone's Family. The rot and decay that characterizes Michael's reign are shown as the natural and inescapable result of the greed that drove the lives of those in the crime organization. Nonetheless, the contrast between Vito, surrounded by friends and family and associates, and Michael, killing friends and associates and even family members, alienating even his most loyal friends, sitting inside his armed compound alone couldn't be starker. There is a reverse symmetry between the two stories: Vito starts off alone and ends surrounded by family and friends, while Michael starts off surrounded with family and friends, and ends up alone. This is symbolized perfectly in the final scene in the film, in a flashback to December 7, 1941, when Michael reveals to his brothers that he has enlisted in the Army. They hear their father arrive elsewhere in the house and rush off to meet him, only Michael sitting at the table alone as the film ends.As with the first film, the acting is beyond reproach. As great as Al Pacino has been in his career, Michael Corleone has been his greatest achievement. He and Robert De Niro excel in the two key roles in the film. Lee Strasberg came out of retirement to play Hyman Roth, and he was extraordinarily effective in the role. The late, great John Cazale was marvelously timid as the dim, confused, and indecisive Fredo, who both adored and resented his brother Michael. Michael Gazzo is unforgettable as Frank Pentangeli, who thinks he has been betrayed by Michael and turns government witness, and received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his performance (he was beaten out by Robert De Niro), as was Lee Strasberg. Robert Duvall returns as Tom Hagen, who is more loyal to Michael than anyone else but who Michael distrusts nonetheless. Bizarrely, Al Pacino lost out to Art Carney, who was excellent in the rather minor film HARRY AND TONTO. It is hard today to understand how Pacino failed to win."
"Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."
J. H. Minde | Boca Raton, Florida and Brooklyn, New York | 02/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Francis Ford Coppola continues his Shakespearean prose opera of the Will to Power in 1974's THE GODFATHER, PART II. Universally considered one of the greatest films ever crafted along with its twin, the original THE GODFATHER (1972), THE GODFATHER, PART II continues the tragic tale of kingship and kinship begun in the earlier film.
Coppola creates a fascinating film study of Father and Son, as he compares and contrasts the middle-aged Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and the young Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro) as the former falls from authority into corruption and decline and the latter rises from obscurity to strength and power.
In two brilliantly crafted parallel period tales spanning the twentieth century, we watch the Father create a self-contained universe centered around Family, while the Son slowly destroys what his Father hath wrought.
DeNiro's Vito Corleone begins life as a frightened immigrant child fleeing a vendetta in Sicily; at his apotheosis, in an act of filial piety he kills Don Ciccio, the man responsible for his own father's, mother's and brother's deaths. Pacino's Michael Corleone begins the film at the height of his powers, then falls deeper and deeper into his own internal darkness. At his nadir, in an act of complete abnegation, he kills his own misguided brother, Fredo (John Cazale).
The difference between them is manifest in that while Don Vito kills only two men (the aforementioned Don Ciccio, and Don Fanucci, a neighborhood predator who takes away Vito's job as a grocery clerk, leaving him unable to feed his Family and driving him into a life of crime), Don Michael is drenched in the blood of other men. Where Don Vito uses his own inherent self-respect and the finespun fear others' feel to serve the essentially unselfish ends of protecting the defenseless in his world, Michael uses the brute force of his personality and unrestrained violence to maintain his own personal wealth and power, ultimately squandering both, and in the end, sacrificing both respect and Family.
The organized crime elements of this film are a dramatic backdrop to the biographical elements. They propel the story but are not the core of it.
Robert DeNiro's Oscar-winning performance as Don Vito Corleone marked the only time that two actors won Academy Awards for the same role (along with Marlon Brando as Don Vito in THE GODFATHER). Pacino's parallel performance as Don Michael is a bleak study in genius, well-deserving its own Oscar.
A gifted film, THE GODFATHER, PART II remains one of the few sequels to match or outmatch it's predecessor film."
Epic Sequel that is Equal to original
Patrick L. Randall | Silver Spring, MD | 02/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are few films in cinematic history that are as revered as "The Godfather". There are so many memorable performances and so many memorable scenes that there's no dispute over it sitting in the #1 All-Time position on the Internet Movie Database's (IMDB) Top 250 list. Normally, trying to follow up such a cinematic masterpiece with a sequel is a foolhardy endeavor. The performances and brilliant storytelling tend to falter in the next movie. Seldom does a drama produce a worthy sequel. In the case of "The Godfather", it easily produced the 'sequel that is equal' with "...Part II". Listed in the #3 slot in the IMDB Top 250 All-Time, "The Godfather, Part II" is an even more ambitious film than the original. So ambitious, in fact, that many fans of the "Godfather" films feel it may actually be superior to the original. I do not share that opinion. At best, I feel it is just as good as the original. At worst, it is just a tiny bit less of a film than "...Part I". I feel that, while "...Part II" is more ambitious, it lacks the grand scale of the original, especially in the scenes involving Michael Corleone's (Al Pacino) control of the family 'business' in the late 1950's. This is hardly a criticism, though. In fact, the lack of grand scale of this 'family' is symbolic of how Michael's chilling rule has wrecked was the family once was, instead of being indicative of lackluster filmmaking. Director Francis Ford Coppola took a risky, but ultimately reward, approach to the story of "The Godfather, Part II". He wanted to tell the story of a young Vito Corleone's (played by Robert DeNiro here) rise to power simultaneously with his son Michael's fall from grace some 40 years apart. The two parallel stories have a marvelous interplay with one another. At no point, when film shifts from one time period to the other, does it feel forced or jarring. There is always some sort of connection, however subtle, between the end of a scene in one time period and the beginning of one in the other. The story of the young Vito Corleone begins in 1901 in Sicily at the funeral for his father who murdered for an insult to local Mafia chieftain. His mother, who lost her other son when he was killed trying to avenge his father, visits the chieftain, Don Ciccio, in an attempt to spare the life of her youngest, 'dumb-witted' son, Vito. When Ciccio refuses, she attempts to murder him and winds up being killed herself. Vito runs away and, with the help of friends of the family, avoids capture by Ciccio's men and is placed on a ship to America. A leap forward to 1958 shows Vito's grandson, Anthony receiving his first Communion and the subsequent reception afterwards at Michael Corleone's Lake Tahoe compound, where Michael receives visitors and requests for favors much the same way Vito did on his daughter's wedding at the beginning of the original "Godfather". Each story, on it's own, is quite fascinating. Weaved together, they are magnificent. The tale of Vito Corleone shows his rise from being just another Italian immigrant to becoming one of the most powerful underworld figures in New York and the strengthening of the Corleone family. In contrast, the tale of Michael Corleone shows the disintegration of his family and his 'family' as a result of his cold, iron-fisted leadership and paranoia over any betrayals, either real or perceived. The very end of Michael Corleone story shows the depressingly haunting image of Michael sitting amongst the fallen leaves of fall with only the 'button' men around him in the compound, as he has pushed away every single person who was close to him. It's a tragic ending of Shakespearean proportions in direct contrast to the seemingly boundless future that seems to await the Corleone's at the end of the Vito Corleone story. As with the original "Godfather", the performances in "...Part II" are nothing short of spectacular. Pacino chillingly portrays Michael Corleone's continued decent into evil. The progression of his character from the war hero who wanted nothing to do with the family business (in "...Part I") to the most ruthless of mafia leaders (in "...Part II") is truly disturbing. Pacino makes Michael the embodiment of pure evil. Not even his wife or his children (or even his brother) are safe from his wrath. The fact that he didn't win a Best Actor Oscar for this performance is almost as criminal as the Corleone family business. Robert DeNiro gives an equally accomplished performance as a young Vito Corleone (who was played by Marlon Brando in the original movie). The mannerisms and demeanor that DeNiro brings to his portrayal of a young Vito leave the audience completely convinced that this is how Vito looked and acted at this age. Unlike Pacino, though, DeNiro was not overlooked for his performance and won an Oscar for Best Support Actor. There are other remarkable performances throughout the film. Among them are Robert Duvall reprising his role as the loyal, but wary, 'adopted brother' Tom Hagen; Lee Strasberg (the creator of "method acting") as Michael's nefarious business partner, Hyman Roth (and target of Michael's famous phrase, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer"); and John Cazale as the weak, easily-manipulated Fredo Corleone who gets himself into trouble way over his head. Few sequels are able to match the acclaim and accomplishment of their predecessor, but "The Godfather, Part II" manages to achieve this in epic fashion. While I still hold to my claim that the original "Godfather" was the better of the two films, there is no doubt in my mind that this exists as one of the 10 best films of all-time."
Arguably the greatest film!!
M. Murrell | Mannheim, Germany / Afghanistan | 12/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Godfather, Part II is arguably the greatest film of all time. It is the only sequel to win Best Picture and, in my opinion, is better than the first movie. Al Pacino gives an unforgettable performance in this movie as does Robert De Niro. Francis Ford Coppola's use of the two story lines going at the same time is wonderful.The Robert De Niro (Young Vito Corleone) story line is the only part of the Godfather novel that was left out of the first film and it shows the rise of the Godfather. The Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) story line shows how Michael continues the family business after the first film. Both story lines are incredible and when they are put together it makes one of the greatest films of all time.There is some very powerful cinematography in this film. The scenes are wonderfully shot on location in Nevada, New York, Sicily, and Cuba. I praise Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola for the best sequel ever!!"
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 03/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even better than the original - because it probes deeper into the personalities, especially of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his obsession with family and loyalty and snubbing out his enemies. He is quiet, educated, and coldly calculating. The movie traces his dealings in the 1950s-60s, set mainly in Nevada. Interspersed with these developments is the story of the rise of his father Don Vito Corleone in Little Italy in NYC in the 1920s, with Robert De Niro doing a brilliant job in that role. Both stories are excellently told. Despite my never quite understanding America's obsession with the mafia and its ilk, it's not hard to conclude that this is a major movie achievement."