(review for both films) an absolute tour de force of filmmaking. there are very few films that are this length that i enjoy watching, and this one may be atop the list; especially after seeing it twice this year. the storytelling, acting, and camera work are high points, but the entire film excels in every way. perhaps there could be a bit more comic relief, but, truth be told, i really don’t mind the weight of the film, even at almost 3 hours long.
of course the main theme is family, and that is well developed, but i also love the way life is depicted as so completely on the edge. life is truly fragile in this film. allegiances and power structures shift, innocence is lost, bystanders are swept into the black hole of the family business, and no one is above being killed (as michael says in part II). along with the story of the family and moving to america and the mob, the godfather films are about michael’s character arc. this is one of the more tragic figures and stories in cinema – from fresh-faced war hero to cold-blooded mob boss – pacino portrays the transformation and all its facets with compassion, power and amazing effectiveness.
in part two we see pacino’s character as full blown mob boss and we are only reminded of his former self in the heart-wrenching penultimate scene. part two loses some of its momentum in the last half hour or so, but gains it back with the inevitable culling and the dinner scene which brings the two films full circle.