An Focal’s First Take Club #6 – The Godfather Part 2

By James Roulston Mooney Nov 21, 2019
Al Pacino sits in a chair in a scene from the film 'The Godfather: Part II', 1974. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

“I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom. Just my enemies”

The Godfather: Part II is considered one of, if not, the greatest film of all time, and by default, the best sequel of all time. (Apart from A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors – Ed) 

With the film famously winning Best Picture, much like its predecessor, and with my love for the first film intact, I was very excited to see what was next in store for Michael after his rise to Don.

After watching it, I agree with the latter consideration.

The second cinematic instalment to Mario Puzo’s iconic Godfather trilogy, Part II documents Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) time as Don of the Corleone family, seven years since the end of the first.

When Michael, looking to expand the family’s empire, strikes a deal with gangster Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), he puts himself into a lot of danger.

His rise to power portrayed in the first film is compared to a young Vito Corleone’s (Robert De Niro) rise during the late 1910’s in New York.

The film is a long but brilliant comparison between Michael and his father, however, I felt Vito’s backstory was not necessary.

Vito’s early crime life is depicted in this film, showing how he grew to be a Don in New York and got revenge on the Don who killed his parents and older brother.

However, these films don’t document Vito’s life in the crime world, they document Michael’s.

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When watching the first one, I could easily grasp the similarities and differences between the two – I didn’t feel documenting Vito’s rise was necessary.

Although done well, with brilliant Oscar-winning acting from De Niro, they ruined the flow of Michael’s story, the character the whole trilogy revolves around and spoiled the film for me.

However, Michael’s story was engrossing, with betrayal and killings galore.

Michael, after surviving a hit, sets out to find out who’s hit it was and who sold him out. When he finds out it was Roth who ordered the hit, Michael tries to figure out who sold him out, while also dealing with legal and marital problems.

The acting from Pacino & co. is superb, with a brilliant screenplay by Puzo and director Francis Ford Coppola to help them bring their iconic characters to life.

Coppola direction is impeccable, with every scene, even if I feel it’s unnecessary, feeling like true cinema – an art form.

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Coppola working his directorial magic

The score, once again, is fantastic and unforgettable, with the iconic Godfather theme present in the film.

Scored by Ennio Morricone, a music legend, the soundtrack helps lift emotional scenes to the next level.

In emotional scenes where it’s not present, the script and acting take centre stage, making for some gripping, tense stand-offs.

The famous scene where Fredo is given the kiss of death by Michael is acted brilliantly, with Cazale excellently portraying the shocked older brother now fearing for his life.

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This scene helps set up a heart-breaking end for Fredo, who meets his maker in the film’s climax, when Michael ties up all loose ends after the death of his mother.

Fredo, having become a father figure for Michael’s son, Anthony, is fleshed out as a character before his death, making the viewer understand his betrayal and sympathise with him, in a way wishing his day never comes.

At the end of it all, we see Michael, pondering what he has done and what is to come, with the viewer left feeling that his fall is near.

Overall, the film is fantastic, probably the best sequel of all time, but not the best film as, due to the unnecessary flashback sequences, it can never reach the heights of the first. A slight disappointment, to be honest, but a classic nonetheless.



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