The Godfather

Year: 1972
Studio: Paramount
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Producer: Albert S Ruddy
Writer: Francis Ford Coppola/Mario Puzo
Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire
Routinely at the top of Greatest Movies Ever Made lists, Coppola has never reached the same heights of critical and movie fan godhood he did both here and with Apocalypse Now.

Still the archetypal Mafia movie, the conventions of the genre have spread deep throughout pop culture; the iconic music, the kissing of the ring, the offer you can't refuse, the horse's head.

It's the saga of the Corleone family, with Don Vito (Brando, in what must be one of the most famous roles in the history of cinema) at one extreme and soft-spoken war vet Michael (Pacino) at the other.

Michael has come home from the war a national hero when his family are little more than a criminal gang, despite the appearance of prestige and class thanks to the riches of their business empire, using the well-oiled machinery of crooked cops and influential politicians to control illicit trades in almost everything.

Realising his life is in its twilight years, Don Vito wants Michael to take over. Michael wants none of it, and the skirmish that ensues when other families start muscling in result in almost everyone falling victim to the violence and allegiances that criss-cross the criminal landscape and inevitably draws him in.

Everyone from clear-headed and rational family 'lawyer' Hagen (Duvall) to the old school tough guy, hot-headed Sonny (Caan) and his shocking end has an important part to play in this sweeping story.

Although the premise of the whole thing has all the makings of an action thriller, Coppola isn't interested in the violence; it's just the reaction to the actions of the characters and their interests. He's interested in the experience of the small time crime lords of old Sicily who came to the land of opportunity and found an untapped market beyond their wildest dreams. And he tells it with a restrained eye and a languid pace that's anything but thrilling but riveting nonetheless.

Stylistically masterful, starring just about every great actor in the field at the time, it will be a long time before one of the 70s movie brats reaches these heights again.

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