"The Godfather" is an American mostly English-language movie from 1972, so this one is already almost 50 years old now, 3 to go, and it runs for almost three hours. I am not even sure if it is necessary to talk about the basics here, but lets go. The director is Francis Ford Coppola and he is also part of the writing team. This is probably still the defining mafia movie and the rating here on imdb says it all. It won Best Picture at the Oscars and Marlon Brando (in heavy makeup) received the second Oscar of his career. Add to that a writing Oscar, but the movie was cut short because of the tremendous success of Cabaret at the Oscars this year where Fosse won Director over Coppola and Grey beat all the three supporting nominees from The Godfather. I don't think Pacino was in the right category though, but I guess they really were all over Brando and wanted to make sure that nobody (from his own film) could stop him from winning. Anyway, the film starts with Brando and he is certainly defining in the first 90 minutes of the movie until an assassination attempt happens and from that moment on he moves a bit into the background and the boys take over, most of all Pacino for whom it was really a star-making performance.
Now as for the plot, it is a cleanly structured film really. There is basically one affair after the next and many of these issues don't have to do a lot with the next. The movie starts at the godfather's daughter's wedding and there is not really too much focus on the actual wedding process, but instead we are taken into the world of crime right away when an old acquaintance asks a lethal favor from Don Corleone. Pretty memorable beginning really that has been spoofed in many other movies, even animated ones not too long ago. Not much later, there is of course the really famous longer sequence that results in a bloody horse head between the sheets. And they get longer and longer as next up is the key plot that involves the Turk turning into the main antagonist as he plans to kill the godfather, takes out his most brutal assistant at the same time and abducts his lawyer. And while the latter is also considered a son (not by blood), we also witness how the godfather's offspring deals with this situation in their own very unique ways: Sonny the hothead, Fredo the weakling who cannot protect his father whatsoever, Tom Hagen (the reasonable one) and eventually Mike whose role is not too clear early and who is far far away from becoming the man he turns out to be at the end of the movie. There is still more focus for him on his love relationship to his significant other and he says he is not like his family. But the attack on his father and later on the killing of one of his brothers really change everything and we find out he is just exactly like his dad. As for Hagen, I still think Duvall is really good in this movie and there is one very brief moment in this film when we hear Vito Corleone say something like somebody who is not Italian like them, which shows that Hagen is really accepted as a son and also seen as Italian pretty much, even if he is German/Irish. This would be one of the really rare funny moments, slightly funny I guess, this film has to offer. It is never about making the audience laugh admittedly, but more to witness the demise of the old man and the rise of the new star eventually and the crime and brutal murders that come with it. As for Michael, this of course also includes him losing his wife when he is in Italy. Had that murder not occurred maybe he never would have returned and the story could have taken a completely different path.
I think one of this film's biggest strengths is that despite the really big quantity of characters, even for a 3-hour movie, they are all fairly memorable with their quirks, mannerisms and backgrounds. Take McCluskey for example. The movie could have done completely without him and he is really only there to serve as support for the Turk, but still he is truly memorable. Actually, his little words on how he frisked hundreds of guys like Mike for guns is another somewhat funny moment. He has no idea what's coming his way. I also want to say a few words on Fredo. He is not as big as the others in here yet or actually he is not too far away either. His scenes are all memorable and he is really definition of weakness and incompetence in 1970s cinema. Of course, that is even more the case in the sequel where he plays an absolute key character. But in this one here, he is also vital really and you could write pages alone on his character and how he (re)acts. Truly sad really Cazale died so early, but he left us a truly remarkable character and honestly every film he made was a winner basically. Now another thing to add here is that it also the small moments that count. When Mike lies to Kay at the very end, we find out 100% where his priorities are now and that he won't let anything get in the way of keeping his father's empire intact.
Another strength here is that Puzo and Coppola are not scared of killing off major characters and it works oh so well because it makes a whole lot of sense. Pay attention to the permanent contrast of new/young life vs. death towards the end: When Vito dies, there is nobody around him except his very young grandson and that still puts major focus on the family component that is oh so crucial here, also when Mike talks about somebody treating Fredo badly. Or the christening of course, which is the best example with the baby and the alleged goodness vs. all the killings that take place at the same time. Vito was gone and that point already and he had gotten soft anyway, but Mike is not scared one bit about blood on his hands to defend his family's honor. Overall, this is a tremendous movie and when we see the bodyguard guy close the door eventually between Mike and Kay, it is all clear. Mike has turned into his dad by then. And how things go on, you can watch in the second film that in my opinion (thanks to Bobby) is even better than the first, even if the majority does not disagree.
But yeah as for this one here, it was the third time I watched it I think and it gets better with each viewing I suppose. It is a film you don't wanna miss out on. Highly recommended, really close call between Cabaret and this one for me when it comes to 1972's finest. I'd still go with Cabaret though I think. It is just as much of a masterpiece. And finally, also pay attention to all the minor references included in here that seem even more interesting if you know how the saga continues. This is also why it is so much worth rewatching. One example would be Vito swearing on his grandchildren's well-being. There's many more. Do not miss out and girls who read this don't trust people saying this is a film that will only or mostly appeal to males. If you like quality filmmaking, then there is no way you should not watch! Oh yeah, but obviously you need to be able to stomach the violence. Just one example, there's a guy shot in the eye through his glasses and we see the blood pouring from his head and that is far from the most violent stuff depicted in here. That's all, folks. Watch it, don't be scared by the running time. You will not ask yourself afterwards if this was really worth 3 hours of your time, but if you are ready immediately for another 3 hours, namely the sequel. I was lucky enough to watch this film on the big screen and I am already looking forward to an occasion to see the second (and third). Certainly pick this opportunity over a small television or laptop screen. If necessary, wait for the 50th anniversary when it certainly will be shown again in many theaters. Mobster filmmaking at its finest.