Revisiting "The Godfather" as I try to do at least every other year, I'm struck once again by how perfectly writer/director Francis Ford Coppola constructs his brilliant masterpiece.
Marlon Brando is excellent as Vito Corleone, the aging head of a powerful Italian crime family. As the film opens, many come to the Godfather on the day of his daughter's wedding, a time bearing the custom that anyone can ask him for a favor.
The opening monologue is perfectly written, setting up not only future events of the story, but also framing the extreme power and scope of the Don's influence.
Robert Duvall is trusted family lawyer and nearly adopted son Tom Hagen, James Caan is violent and volatile son Sonny and a young Al Pacino is son Michael, just returning from the army and determined to stay out of the family business.
When another "family" decides to get involved in the emerging drug trade, Don Corleone resists, setting off a battle of wills that soon erupts into warfare.
Coppola has taken a trashy book by Mario Puzo and elevated into film greatness by creating a vast cast of characters that you connect with for nearly three, fast hours.
It feels as if you are submerged into this dangerous, violent world, rooting for characters who run their crime family with honor, trust and extreme violence. The fact you root for anyone here is a tribute to Coppola's screenplay and visual storytelling gifts, which have never been on better display.
Wrap the storytelling in Nino Rota's beautiful music score, excellent photography by Gordon Willis and perfect period costumes and sets from Dean Tavoularis and you have one of the all time great films.
The supporting cast is uniformly superb, including Sterling Hayden as a crooked police chief, Richard Castellano as Clemenza ("Leave the body, take the cannollis), John Marley as the equine loving movie producer and a beautiful young Diane Keaton as Michael's girlfriend.
Brando and Pacino are spectacular as the two anchors of the story and their scenes together are powerful.
The set pieces are now classic, the opening wedding, the attempt on the Don's life in the hospital, Michael's meeting in the Italian restaurant, too many more to mention. Watching Duvall, Caan, Pacino and Brando in the Don's dark, smoke filled office could fill a movie in itself.
Over 40 years later, the film still looks and plays out with beautiful precision. Coppola went to the mat to make his version of the film and its genius.
Oscar winner for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Brando as Best Actor, "The Godfather" was followed by the only sequel in film history to ever ALSO win Best Picture, "The Godfather, Part II" in 1974.
A perfect, timeless masterpiece, "The Godfather" is in my all time top 5 and gets an A+.