The Godfather is the story of a Mafia family called the Corleones. They are led by their patriarch, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). It's the wedding of his daughter (Talia Shire) and we are introduced to all the characters. Michael (Al Pacino) is the war hero who wants no part in the family business. Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) is the family's adopted son and lawyer who does a lot of the legal work for Vito. Sonny (James Caan) is the family hot-head, and Vito's right-hand man (and son). Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) is Michael's girlfriend who is shocked by the way that the Corleone family does business. When Vito denies a narcotics dealer, a gangland war erupts and prompts the rise of a new Don, a powerful, evil force to be reckoned with in the Corleone family: Michael.
The Godfather is pure and simple, one of the most epic sagas I have ever seen. While it doesn't feel epic in scope necessarily: the gangland war is mostly twists and turns; the way that the film spans eight years and how the arcs of multiple characters feel complete is what makes the film epic. It's a three hour film that flies by pretty fast and a lot of the times with pure tension or intrigue.
The performances are all stellar. Standouts for me are Al Pacino and Marlon Brando. Pacino's performance comes through better in Part II, where he has fully encompassed his evil character, but he shines in this one too through the evolution of Michael Corleone. However, there is a reason that Brando's performances is considered one of the best of all time. You can't look away when he's on screen and it's method acting at its best.
While The Godfather is an extremely well-written, well-made saga of epic proportions that is one of the most complete stories ever made, I'm not going to say that my expectations didn't get in the way of my full enjoyment of this film. I had the highest of expectations and there is no way that this film could have ever in a million years, met them on first watch. It's story time. As many of you devout readers know, I went on a bit of a classic movie binge in early 2012. During that time, I watched Casablanca. On first watch, I thought that it was good, but nothing overly special. How wrong I was. Casablanca, after numerous rewatches, is now my favorite film. True story.
However, the pacing in The Godfather was a bit slow at times. Part of me thought that it was a good thing, but part of me thought that it was painfully slow at times. It builds the story up nicely and does its job well but there could have been a bit more excitement. However, after taking a break, I watched the last two hours in complete succession and didn't want to stop. It was excellent.
The Godfather is a must-watch for anyone who wants to be a true cinephile. While I can't say that it's a perfect film, it sure is a great story. Plus, there are some really well-edited sequences (see: the killings at the end of the film). I was completely blind-sided by The Godfather. It was so different and it was an odd mix of several genres and styles that I had seen before. However, there is no denying its originality and brilliance and I look forward to watching this again and again for years to come.
THE FINAL GRADE: A-