Godfather: Part 3

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"It's dangerous to be an honest man "

March 28th, 2013

Godfather Part 3 has built up a legendary reputation that even people who haven't seen it are aware of. Much like the revelations of Darth Vader's kin and Planet of the Apes statue of Liberty it is known to all. The knowledge I speak of is that the flick is terrible, a bad movie sequel, downright disappointing. Only that's not true at all. It's actually one of the best movies out there.

The poor reception seems to stem from the fact that the movie is not on the same level as the two that preceded it. That may seem like an admission that the film is of poor quality but it's not, Godfather Part 1 and 2 are perfect representations of the art of cinema (you can argue that nothing is perfect but these are films that will never be surpassed and to me that is the definition of perfect). With a 16 year gap before the release of the 3rd it didn't really stand a chance. The legendary status of the originals had been built up in public consciousness to a level that would require the film to dish out sexual favours along with every ticket purchased.

Set in 1979 Michael is nearing the end of his run as head of the family. In the midst of brokering a deal with the Catholic Church Michael attempts to separate himself from the criminal underground and find redemption for the mortal sins he has committed. Unfortunately for Michael the families have a way of pulling him back in leading him towards the ultimate cost of a life of crime and decadence.

When I was younger one of my next door neighbour used to borrow me films, more often than not before they had even left cinemas. One day when returning a tape I saw him watching a movie that grabbed my attention. As I sat watching the final hour and ten minutes I had no idea what was going on but found it the most beautiful film I had ever seen. When it was over my neighbour turned to me and said "What a piece of shit, not a patch on the first 2 Godfather movies". It was at that point that I learnt two things, everyone has differing tastes and that I should take more notice of what movies are called (I had actually seen the first Godfather film at that point but wasn't aware that I had).

It's hard to tell why I enjoyed what little I had seen of Godfather 3 because I was of quite a young age (I enjoyed watching adult movies but took in very little of the plots). I never sat through it again until I was much older and while I held a fondness for the movie I was aware what most thought so I sat through it trying to hate it. I looked for flaws and for years lambasted the movie like the best of them but I never truly disliked it. It was only as an adult that I learnt to ignore the allure of peer pressure and give my honest opinion on movies (which I do in all my reviews).

It's probably best to hit up the main concern plaguing the film, Sofia Coppola. With Francis Ford Coppola casting his daughter there were concerns of nepotism but it was more out of necessity due to the multiple dropouts and looming deadlines (the movie was cursed with behind the scenes shenanigans). Sofia is more than competent in the role, while she does stand out as not having the same gravitas as the rest of the cast there is nothing wrong with the performance. In fact while the character is important to the main plot her screen time is not that significant which is why I always found it odd so many fixated on her (Least we forget George Hamilton is in this movie).

The rest of the cast are top notch from the surviving cast members from the previous films (minus Robert Duvall who elected to not return) to the new generation. The younger members of the cast have a slight nervousness to them (such as Andy Garcia) but it actually works within the roles they are playing. In what seems like real life imitating art the cast had a lot to live up to in a known beloved franchise and acting with Hollywood's heavyweights. Things work as that is the same situation the characters find themselves in trying to live up to their parent's legacy.

The plot is a masterclass and perfectly elevates things without becoming too outlandish. For me things are believable because of the time period and monetary gains the families have achieved by this point. The complexity of the plot shows a natural progression across all three movies. The first movie showed corruption in the criminal underground, the second corruption in legitimate business and the third religion (that which should not be possible).

What I really admire this time is that we finally get to see Michael as a more venerable individual closer to the man we meet in the first movie (rather than masking his emotions). Watching a man on a quest for redemption is something we can all relate to and the film questions what can really be forgiven (especially if future sins are all but guaranteed). It's that spark of humanity that makes the events of the film harder to watch as it becomes clear that the Godfather saga is not going to have a happy ending with Michael finally having to pay for his sins.

I know the movie has been criticised for its incorporation of historical events (especially that of the Catholic Church) with the Corleones and it's true at times it can come off leaving a bad taste (the hanging under the bridge) but it's meant to. With the families holding such an elevated position in society it's hard to imagine the most important events of the time not affecting them in some capacity. That and the fact that our "heros" are no longer ambiguously tragic figures but villains without justification for their criminal actions. By using actual events what they do appears more horrific rather than a glorification of violence.

It's possible to nitpick the makeup effects used to age the cast but this was before the days when CGI could fix anything. To be honest the way they age people with CGI nowadays is actually artificial and creepy so the practical effects appear more natural (they also age better than CGI).

I don't have too much to say on the film (which is why I'll never attempt to review the first two films) when a film has great acting, a great story and beautiful cinematography (as well as its score) it is a great movie. While it's not as good as those that precede it the film is head and shoulders above most other releases (it's no coincidence that the Godfather trilogy was the first franchise have all 3 movies nominated for academy awards). The issues the film has faced are all built up through anticipation and expectations that are not really in the realm of possibility.

Would it have been nice to see the return of Tom Hagen? Yes but the actor declined. Coppola gave us the best film that could have been possible at that period in time (It was very nearly made by Stallone, think on that). Do not dismiss this film without watching it (there are many out there that have the trilogy in their homes but have never watched it) it is a great conclusion/epilogue that deserves your time.

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenplay: Mario Puzo
Francis Ford Coppola
Released: 1990
Rating: 18
Starring:Al Pacino
Andy GarcĂ­a
Diane Keaton