The Godfather | Teen Ink

The Godfather

March 6, 2018
By mattvail21 BRONZE, Morristown, New Jersey
mattvail21 BRONZE, Morristown, New Jersey
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments

The Godfather opens with a man pleading for Don Vito Corleone’s help in bringing justice to the men that beat his daughter, and walked away with no jail time. Instead of asking for money, Vito poses the question to the man as to why he never invited him over for coffee or dinner. The scene ends with Mr. Corleone saying he will take care of these men only if the man pledges him a favor later on. This one scene sets up all you need to know about Vito, he is a respected man that people come to for help, he is also gentle and cares more about family and friendship than he does money and power. So, is The Godfather as great as people say? Is it overrated? The short answer to that is it is not as great as people say, but better than what most people think. It is one of the few cinematic masterpieces that definitely ranks among a masterclass of some of the greatest films of all time. But what makes it so great? I’m here to go in depth about the complicated story that is skillfully structured and put together. The brief yet many powerful moments of brilliant filmmaking, and of course the world renown performances of the star studded cast.

The Godfather’s plot was wonderfully constructed and never stopped moving, there is always new adversity that the family has to get through. The best stories have never ending problems that are either physical or psychological. The Godfather’s opening problem is with Michael Corleone, perfectly stated with this summary “When the don's youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly joins the Mafia, he becomes involved in the inevitable cycle of violence and betrayal. Although Michael tries to maintain a normal relationship with his wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), he is drawn deeper into the family business.” Despite Michael’s struggles being the main driving force of the movie, there are fantastically written side characters, and subplots that are just intriguing as the main plot. For instance, the character of Sonny is so brilliantly portrayed as reckless and unpredictable. Coppola does this by writing different events where he stepped his boundaries or acted purely out of emotion. This was clearly shown when he interrupted Don Vito Corleone when Vito was discussing business with Sollozzo. This was subtly hinted at just like many others line of dialogue that drive the story.

The plot advances from something that one of the characters previously said or did, making it so that there is always logic to the characters actions. In the famous opening scene Johnny Fontane arrives at Connie’s wedding to perform and ask Vito for a favor, a favor of convincing a director to give him a part in a hollywood movie that would put a struggling Fontane right back on top. Vito, after giving Johnny guidance and a hard slap on the face, sends Tom to hollywood to convince this director to cast Johnny. Obviously, Tom goes and attempts to reason with the director first, rather than resorting to violence right away. After the director refuses Tom’s peaceful bargain, Tom cuts of the head of the horse and plants the head in the director’s bed. All these events were set up by only a couple lines of dialogue. In an incohesive and possibly bad film an event that is mentioned at the beginning of the movie doesn’t always come up later, meaning it’s a subplot that never connects to the main story. However a small side character in The Godfather is a plot device for driving the characters development and the story. Not only is there external and foreign conflict but also internal, the things characters go through take a toll on them and forces them to ask questions about the mob life.

A specific instance where Michael’s loved ones is hurt around him is after Michael takes care of Sollozzo and Mccluskey, he gets sent to Sicily for refuge, as enemies are after him. During this trip he meets a woman named Apollonia. He instantly falls in love with her and in the near future takes Apollonia's hand in marriage. As their relationship progresses, danger becomes relevant and Michael is at risk. When his enemies attack however, it isn’t Michael that gets hurt, it’s Apollonia that dies when Michaels car was rigged to explode. This further pushes what the expenses of this lifestyle they live are, along with the death of Sonny, and how Michael had to blatantly lie to his wife about killing Connie’s abusive husband to ensure she wouldn’t leave him. All of these moments make for the perfect inner conflict, while the execution of scenes is also something to marvel at.

The scene where Michael assassinates Mccluskey and Sollozzo has it all, tension, great acting, and fantastic execution. The final confrontation with Sollozzo and the cop on his payroll is happening, the first and part of the second act along with the plot in total builds to this moment when Michael sits down with Mccluskey, and Sollozzo. Right before he is about to reign hell on these two men, you can see Michael’s eyes moving about sporadically. As the camera magnifies on his face, the murmur of Sollozzo’s voice is drowned out by the train noises, almost signifying his disconnection from reality. Although this small detail maybe wasn’t the most prevalent thing in the film, these and many others were what made The Godfather above the rest. It was perfectly directed, increased tension and said more about Michael’s character than any line of dialogue could, he’s young, inexperienced, ruthless, and a daring.

When Sollazzo captures Tom, throughout the scene the men in background aren’t grabbing for attention but are a noticeable menacing presence. Every shot of Tom has Sollozzo’s figure in it, showing how he is in complete control, seemingly towering over Tom. Sollozzo is also clearly confident along with an assertive tone, while Tom shows weakness and breaks down crying when Sollozzo mentions Vito’s supposed death. The dialogue and acting further construct the point that Sollozzo is in control and practically using Tom as a puppet. However, the visuals is what makes the scene so special. If you were to turn off the sound when that scene played, you wouldn’t understand the plot all the way but you would know that Sollozzo is the villain, and that he is in control. The acting in this scene was fantastic as well, along with every other scene.

The whole cast won many awards for their brilliance. As well as it is an all across the board amazing performances. They all embodied their characters and added another dimension to them, pretty much making them leap off the screen. This is perfectly stated when an author of Boise Classic movies said ““And the cast is unbeatable. Al Pacino was nobody until he played Michael Corleone in The Godfather.  Brando was the master of method acting and nowhere is that mastery better showcased than in the character of Vito Corleone. Robert Duvall as the cunning, cool-headed consigliere, James Caan as the reckless heir apparent, Diane Keaton as the voice of the outsider. The Godfather is Hollywood at its best.” Along with this cast came many accolades and nominations for accolades. Including The Academy award for best actor for Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone. James Caan, Al Pacino, and Robert Duvall  were nominated for best supporting actor. The Godfather deserved every single award it won and more, this movie is without a doubt one of the best movies of all time.

All of these things make The Godfather a certified masterpiece. Francis Ford Coppola not only delivered an art so poignant and wonderful, but a timeless classic that will be remembered for years to come. Almost a half of a century later this movie stood the test of time and is considered one of the greatest of all time.

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