As a kid, I remember going to the movies with my cousins to see some Disney film, which in the context of this story isn’t important; however, as we waited in line to get popcorn, I was taken aback by a particular VHS tape they were selling on the shelves near the eatery. The very title in question was The Godfather, heralded by most, including myself, as one of the greatest films of all time.
At the time, I had no inclination as to what The Godfather was about, who starred in it, or even what it was rated. The iconic image of Marlon Brando holding a kitten was truly a mystery to me back then. Little did I know of the intense presence Vito Corleone carried in the film, considering Brando had a cute feline by his side on the cover of the VHS box. The mystique of that image stayed with me for years, until one day in high school I sought out The Godfather at the local video store, and it certainly was well worth the wait.
The Godfather was easily one of my favorite films after just one viewing, and it still holds up well, which is not something you can say about many other films of its era. With direction by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather follows the Corleone Family through a mesmerizing journey of epic proportions, as the audience is treated to unparalleled storytelling and as far as I’m concerned, an acting clinic that has yet to be equaled.
Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Don Corleone is a revelation, to say the least, as he draws the perfect balance between menacing and sympathetic. Two of my favorite scenes show him in a more reserved, warm-hearted light. The first being a conversation with his youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), outside the Corleone home, and the beautifully shot scene with Vito and his grandson in the backyard has yet to be matched. It’s truly a fantastic moment in filmmaking.
As great as Brando was in the film, Pacino’s performance as Michael is still my favorite role in any film. To think the studio didn’t want Pacino to play Michael, but thankfully Coppola fought tooth and nail to get him cast as the co-lead in the film. To see his trajectory from soft-spoken war hero to intimidating mobster is something to behold.
James Caan couldn’t have been a better choice to play Michael’s hotheaded older brother, Sonny, whose confrontational nature is both a blessing and a curse. He always has the back of the family and is a protector of his siblings, especially his younger sister, Connie (Talia Shire).
The most underrated role in the film has to be Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen. After being welcomed into the Corleone home as a child, Hagen grows up to be a well-respected lawyer and assists the Corleone Family on a day to day basis.
Diane Keaton is probably the least likely actress you would think of with regard to a gangster film. But that’s the beauty of her role as Michael’s girlfriend, Kay, it’s so unexpected. Keaton was another fine addition to the cast, and she was able to stand toe to toe with some of the greatest actors ever assembled on film.
As I took a trip down memory lane in the earlier portion of this review, I talked about how much the Godfather image left a lasting impression on me. Obviously, the only way to one-up the front of a VHS tape is by purchasing a movie poster. The Godfather posters are still among the best sellers almost 45 years after its release. It goes to show you how important this legendary motion picture is and will be in the foreseeable future.