If you have ever been struck by a line, knowing you’ve heard it somewhere before, its origin was probably The Godfather. There are so many iconic moments in this film it’s practically the outline for every mob movie made after 1972. Also – 1972? This movie is decades ahead of its time. From an analytical point of view, with the contrasting dark/light shots and the happy music accompanying not-so-happy scenes, it is genius; but it’s also hypnotically entertaining. It may be long (with a running time of 175 minutes), but it’s one of those rare films that devours a part of your day and leaves you not minding in the least. It’s very persuasive. You become completely invested, almost addicted, to the Corleone family and their fondness for illicit activities.
The Godfather begins on a lighthearted note, with the big cheese, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), granting favours on the day of his daughter’s wedding. You quickly learn that if the Godfather agrees to grant your request, it will be followed through, no matter how unethical it may be. Their methods aren’t always… orthodox, but they are certainly effective. This series of favours is what introduces you to the Corleones and their “family business”. The plot then moves this way and that with murders, backroom deals, meetings between heads of families, exiles, weddings, baptisms, and funerals. It occasionally jumps ahead a few years to cover more ground, so by the end of The Godfather you’ve had a fairly detailed look into the life of an Italian crime family.
And Italian they are. There are stereotypes up the wazoo: hand-waving, loud overpopulated gatherings, red wine served in pitchers, people saying “you like your lasagna?”, and even a recipe for the perfect pasta sauce. And what about the mobster stereotypes: muscled goons who will “take care of it”; escorting oblivious victims to secluded locations; the boss petting his cat during a private meeting; the trench coats; the fedoras… it’s all there. The Godfather is so iconic, however, that you have to stop and consider how many of these stereotypes were conceived in this movie? Lines like, “I’m a superstitious man,” are thrown about so often in other films that you forget they’re playing homage to this classic. The Godfather set the standard and we have been bowing to it ever since.
Marlon Brando and his on-screen son, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), are that kind of evil where words aren’t necessary. Brando creates a character that is polite, caring, a family-man, but whose mere presence is boot-shakingly intimidating. One look triggers sweaty brows, apologies, and oaths of fidelity. The dialogue isn’t threatening at all – it’s the presentation which sends thugs a runnin’. But even so, Don Corleone is such a sympathetic character that I found myself respecting him as a father with a job and a rather large family to feed. As his son, Michael, has the difficult task of trying to fill his father’s Italian leather boots, and demand the same level of respect without Don Corleone’s years of experience. Where Brando’s look says, “don’t cross me or I’ll kill every puppy you’ve ever pet,” Pacino’s look says, “I just poisoned your wine.” Both spell misfortune, but each is their own brand of criminal.
There are relatable romcoms and then there are movies like this. The Godfather is so far removed from the 9:00-5:00 lifestyle that it really is escapism. Let it make you an offer you can’t refuse, and schedule a meeting with The Godfather during your next rainy Sunday. This classic is a 9/10.
Watch the trailer here.