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Monday, March 30, 2015

The many thousands of amateur film critics at the Internet Movie Database rarely agree on anything and they also rarely give movies grades much higher than 7.5. So when you see the 9.2 rating for The Godfather on and then you see that it is a grade made up of almost one million votes, you start to realize how universally respected this film really is. There are a lot of reasons why so many people love The Godfather, but you really have to see it to understand its appeal.

As an action movie, few movies move slower than The Godfather. Between spurts of gun violence and other types of haphazard action, we are subjected to drawn-out meetings between gangsters and slightly tainted love stories. In almost any other movie, long and drawn-out meetings would bore an audience to death, but that is not the case with The Godfather. For some reason, the lulls in the action are just as exciting as the action itself. The Godfather is one of those movies that offers no time to go grab a sandwich or use the restroom, which is extremely unusual for a movie that is just shy of three hours long.

The dialogue in the movie, coupled with the precise timing in which it is delivered by the actors, is what makes this movie almost impossible to stop watching. Even after you have seen the movie literally 100 times (at least, that is when I stopped counting how many times I have seen it) and know what is coming next, you are still riveted to the conversations going on between guys who are deciding life and death in an almost casual way.

One of the more brilliant moves that lead to the production of The Godfather was hiring an unknown actor named Al Pacino to play the lead role of Michael Corleone. Up until he landed the role that would launch his career, Pacino had done most of his lead work in stage productions. It was Pacino’s work in a live stage production that caught the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola and inspired Coppola to fight bitterly with the studio about putting an unknown actor in a lead role. In my opinion, The Godfather falls very flat without Pacino and I consider Coppola’s casting decision to be one of the most significant events in movie history.

Usually, when I am watching a three-hour movie, I get to a point where I think it should have ended an hour earlier. With The Godfather, I never want the movie to end. The story is so engaging and played so well by the cast that I feel like I am watching something much more significant than a movie. But when the ending does arrive, it just feels so perfect.

Another reason I like The Godfather so much is because, each time I watch it, I find myself so wrapped up in the mafia strategy that I am trying to determine the inspiration behind each decision the characters make. How did Don Vito know that the first person to approach Michael about a meeting after the Don’s death would be the family traitor? I found the structure and mechanisms within the movie to be so engaging that I study the film now as much as watch it.

I have seen plenty of three-hour movies where character development was lacking, but that is not the case with this movie. We have decided by the start of the second hour which characters we care about, which ones we do not care about, and which ones we hope get whacked before the movie ends.

This movie works hard to successfully establish a strong emotional attachment with its audience and, as any artist will tell you, a strong emotional attachment is what makes art enduring. The Godfather plays on so many emotional levels that there have been books written about the effect the movie has on an audience. This is the ideal way to make a movie and the movie world was blessed to have Coppola re-create that magic in the greatest sequel of all-time. But that is another review.

Good movies tell stories and do not need jazzy special effects or tons of gore to grab an audience’s attention. The story of the mafia is one that has fascinated Americans since the 1930s and continues to be the stuff of American legend. The Godfather is a timeless masterpiece that will be as relevant 100 years from now as it is today and stands as the pinnacle of movie making that so many directors continue to strive for.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

+George N Root III  is a drive-in fanatic who knows that drive-in season is just around the corner. In the meantime, he hopes you enjoy these classic reviews of the great and significant movies throughout history.

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