I have been reluctant to watch The Godfather. My apprehensions have been there upon learning it is about a Mafia family. Given a choice, I try to avoid its kind, those that contain too much violence, guns and gore. The second reason would be its status as a classic, universally-praised film. It gives me high hopes and expectations for this movie, and several times I’ve seen classics and critically acclaimed movies, I feel let down. I’m happy that I’ve been forced to watch it (Finally!). Every second of the more than three hours is worthy of my time and full attention.
I think I mutter the word ‘epic’ hundred times after watching the film. The way it extracts a raw and compelling twist from an otherwise emotionally-distant subject is unbelievable. It comprises many different characters with unique personalities, but they all have their fair share of the spotlight. They have their trademarks, and long after I’ve forgotten all of the dialogues (Except “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”) or the sequence of events, I know the roles play significant parts. Moreover, these aren’t one-dimensional characters. They may be ruthless murderers but they have human qualities as well. To Don Vito, family welfare comes first. As much as he can, he keeps Michael out of the family business. One of the most emotional scenes is when he learns the death of Sonny and breaks down. The family members follow the orders of their kins, not because of fear, but out of loyalty and respect.
In my opinion, the movie wouldn’t be as good without Marlon Brando and his superb performance. The man is irreplaceable. I have read that he masters method acting; internalizes easily with his roles. He has created the Don Vito we know – a man we love, fear and respect. He is old; his health, failing. But until the end, I find him the most sensible, intelligent man in the family. The eldest Sonny is short-tempered and his temper always gets in the way to making a sound decision for the family business. He is the brother that we can somehow empathize with; he has two huge responsibilities – being the heir to the throne and the protector of his younger siblings. It’s not easy to juggle both, and oftentimes he ends up sacrificing one for the other. The youngest, Michael, has no plans to get involved in the family business. During his sister’s wedding, Al Pacino tells this to Diane Keaton with a straight face, and we know Michael is telling the truth. But he maintains that demeanor until the end – when he gets to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey, when he becomes godfather to his nephew, and even when he tells Kay that he is not responsible for Carlo’s death. He is a cautious man; clever not to let his emotions betray him.
It doesn’t surprise me why people tell The Godfather glorifies crimes. Most of the murders appear to be justice well-served. I don’t think I am the only person relieved seeing the heads of other Mafia families, especially Don Barzini, gunned down. The killings are done to remove obstacles, but mostly as punishment to the people who have done wrong to the family.
I hope cheering for the Corleones is the the natural reaction to watching The Godfather. Even if it isn’t, the film gives me plenty of reasons to believe so.