“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” – this line from The Godfather, an adaptation of Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel, has attained legendary status. Not only was this 1972 epic the greatest mafia movie of its time but it also set the benchmark for all future gangster movies. The thing which sets this movie apart from all other gangster movies is its very strong story where many sub-plots, which in themselves are strong enough to be the foundation of any movie, are intricately woven together to present this great family saga.
The movie revolves around the criminal empire built by Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) and how he builds and protects it with the assistance of his able soldiers – his sons Sonny Corleone (James Caan) and Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), adopted son and lawyer Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) and the brutal raw force of Luca Brasi. The movie begins with the wedding of Don Corleone’s daughter Connie (Talia Shire) where Don Corleone’s secretive meeting with his guests shows how the Corleone Empire is built through intricate networking with the most powerful people in society.
The real story begins when Sollozo (Al Lettieri), an upcoming gangster, seeks the Godfather’s assistance for his new narcotics business and offers him a share of the profits in return. However, the Godfather has a strict policy of non-involvement in drugs and thus refused to accept his offer. Sollozo solicits the assistance of the other gangster families who have no such qualms about getting involved in the drug business. Thus, a war against the Corleone family begins. Sollozo knew his business could not succeed until he ensured that the Godfather was ‘sleeping with the fishes’ and to achieve this, he attempted to kill the Godfather and even succeeded in killing his right-hand man Luca Brasi.
After the Godfather is injured, Sollozo aggressively attacks the Corleone family’s property and goes all out to kill the Godfather. It is Michael Corleone, the innocent outsider, rather than Sonny or Tom Hagen, who outsmart Sollozo by killing him over dinner at a family restaurant. The movie then moves to the vast pastures of Sicily where Michael is sent to protect him from the wrath of the other families. On his return, he is trained by Don Vito about the intricacies of the ‘family business’ and the burden which he would bear when he becomes the Godfather.
Marlon Brando deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Don Vito Corleone. With his penetrating stare, deliberate movements and commanding voice, he aptly portrays one of the most complex gangsters ever. The Godfather never showed sympathy for those who expressed their weakness, had an amazing ability to identify people who would be useful to him and believed that all problems could be sorted out by a rational discussion. Even though violence plays a central role in the movie, its general theme is more about family bonding and how the Godfather never believed in solving problems by violence, but at the same time, was not afraid of using it when needed. Brando did full justice in portraying such a complex character with natural ease.
The movie also got three Best Supporting Actor nominations for Al Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall. Having the maximum screen time, Al Pacino deserved a nomination for the Best Actor too for effortlessly portraying the transformation of Michael Corleone from the bystander to the main protagonist. Each character plays their own special part, whether it is Kay Adams or Luca Brasi, which adds to the rich plot of the movie.
The screenplay and technical aspects are very nicely done. The score by Nino Rota is memorable and tells us about the background and emotions of the characters. The most remarkable part is the strong script and screenplay which captivates the audience and leaves a crater-like impression. The Godfather has inspired many movies including Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar and Sarkar Raj.
All in all, the Corleone family is one with which we all can identify. There is jealousy, hatred, love and compassion amongst the members, which is displayed through their moments of celebration and mourning. This intricate tale of revenge and corruption is one which has established its special place in history. An amazing movie which you can’t afford to miss!