Combustible Celluloid
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With: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Sterling Hayden, Richard S. Castellano, John Marley, Richard Conte, Al Lettieri, Gianni Russo, Rudy Bond, Alex Rocco
Written by: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novel by Mario Puzo
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 175
Date: 03/14/1972

The Godfather (1972)

4 Stars (out of 4)

An Offer We Can't Refuse

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

From our vantage point today, it's hard to imagine The Godfather becoming the highest grossing movie in the world, as it did in 1972. It seems too thoughtful for today's standards. But it is one of the greatest pictures ever made and one of the very few Best Picture Oscar winners that actually deserved the award.

With this movie director Francis Ford Coppola announced the beginning of a new (but brief) Renaissance in American film with his flawless view of a gangster family in turmoil. The Godfather is violent, but the main thing one takes away from this movie is a sense of family, a sense of honor and duty that one owes to one's own blood, and a sense of absolute trust. Al Pacino gives an amazingly subtle performance as Michael Corleone, the youngest brother of the family, and the only one with a college education and a military record. Everyone thinks Michael is going to go straight until his father, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), and his older brother, Sonny (James Caan), are shot and Michael steps in to take over as head of the family with surprising adroitness.

The Godfather is a movie of conversations around tables, planning, and waiting. The "action" scenes are unspectacular on purpose: Vito dropping his oranges in an overhead shot, Sonny at the toll booth, and policeman Sterling Hayden in the Italian restaurant. The movie is about story and characters first and production value second -- an art all but lost only 28 years later. The screenplay is by Coppola and Mario Puzo, based on Puzo's novel, with a little uncredited help from Robert Towne. The cast also includes: Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Talia Shire, and Abe Vigoda, with cinematography by Gordon Willis. The Godfather is followed by two sequels, both outstanding in their own ways. Like Citizen Kane, The Godfather doesn't age.

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