Review: The Godfather Part II (1974)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenwriter: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, John Cazale
Genres: Crime, Drama
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Release Dates: 12/18/74 (Theatres); 8/1/13 (Streaming)
Best Line: “If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.”
Runtime: 3 hours, 22 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Oscars: Won–Picture, Supporting Actor (De Niro), Director, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Original Score; Nominated–Actor (Pacino), Supporting Actor (Michael V. Gazzo/Lee Strasberg), Supporting Actress (Talia Shire), Costume Design
Where to Watch: Rent/Buy

How do you review a film that has already been dissected and discussed and raved about ever since its release 46 years ago? All you can do is repeat what has been already said. And, while I may not call it the best film ever made, it’s certainly a perfectly-made film, with pitch-perfect performances — especially from winner Robert De Niro and nominee Al Pacino — and compelling, complex characters who are flawed in the best possible ways.

Pacino builds upon his also-nominated performance from this first plan, now showing a much-evolved Michael Corleone, who has become even more ruthless and calculating than his now-deceased father. On that note, I found Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Vito Corleone to be a bit annoying (mainly because I missed much of what he was saying), so I was happy to see a different iteration of the character in the form of De Niro, who spends much of his screen time speaking in Italian. De Niro makes no attempts to imitate Brando, and that’s mainly why he succeeds here. It’s fascinating to see his transition from Italian immigrant to the guy who only kills people who it makes sense [in his mind] to kill. The attention to detail in those flashback scenes is admirable, too. 

But, of course, it’s Pacino who carries the film and it’s thanks to his committed, sometimes subtle performance that Michael Corleone is one of the most fascinating antagonists of all time. He’s not exactly a likable character, and is now a far cry from the wary military veteran we saw in the last film. He’s scarily intimidating in his interactions with other people, even with those in his own family. In one particularly intense scene, Michael’s wife, played by Diane Keaton (not praised enough for her performance here), confronts him and comes clean about her true feelings about him and what he does. He treats his own wife as horribly as he does non-family members, and shortly after that he brutally shuts the door in her face when she finally leaves him.

Also, every minute of its lengthy runtime is earned. Not a line of dialogue or camera angle is wasted or misused. It’s clear that Coppola and Puzo made such a brilliant screenwriting duo. I’ve heard negative things (from my dad) about how the third film is not worth watching, but I may check it out some point. After having watched this masterpiece, how could Coppola, Puzo, and co. possibly top that?