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Film Review: ‘The Godfather’ and the Faustian Pact

December 3, 2010

‘The Godfather – Trilogy’ is a necessary entry on every man’s favourite film list and I am no exception. The one debate which comes up every time you watch any of the films in company, is which is the best of the films. For most of my friends the first film is by far the best, with the enigmatic Godfather played by Marlon Brando leading an excellent cast. There is however, a fairly noisy minority which disagrees with this order, placing the second film with Al Pacino as the Godfather at the top of the list. What both groups agree, of course, is that the third film, is by far the worst; not just third place but third by a boat length and a half. I understand where they’re coming from, after all, the third film isn’t set in the 1940s and therefore none of the nostalgia associated with the first two films. The third film sees the downfall of the family, the loss of the iron will and firm conviction of the main character, Michael Corleone and ultimately his death. The third film is a very different beast to the first two but I think without it the whole trilogy is unfinished, the story incomplete.

For those who have missed one or more of the films let me give you a quick overview. A young boy who for his own safety is packed off from Italy to America, finds the Italian part of New York to be a tough place to grow up. The crime bosses run the neighbourhood supported by the patriarchal society, part of the culture which came over from Italy, where loyalty backed up by violence holds sway. Due to a calm and courageous temperament, Vito Corleone overcomes the local mafia leader and by default takes on the role. Using the principles of a 1920s gentlemen he runs his neighbour well and is respected but longs for his children to have a crime free life. However, his oldest son, loves to throw his words and fists around, his second son loves the high life too much, so his hopes falls on his youngest son Michael. Initially, Michael fulfils all of his father’s hopes, graduating from a leading Ivy league university, joining the Marines and becoming a war hero. He meets the love of his life and intends to marry her, telling her he will never be part of his families mafia business. However, when his father is shot and his family threatened a Faustian deal is done; he will take the reigns of the family business in order to keep them safe, attempting to legitimise this to himself and his new wife as the only way to guide the Corleone family into legitimacy. With the deal done, Michael becomes everyone’s worse nightmare, giving up everything in order to safeguard his family, killing all that threaten the family including in the end his own brother. For all this Michael becomes increasingly alone, losing his wife and children and left wondering who he can trust. So ends the second film.

But if we left it here we would be severely short-changed. What will happen to Michael, how will he work his way out of his predicament and what will happen to his family? These are the questions we are left with at the end of the second film and which the third film deals with fantastically well. It is in the third film, we find an ageing Michael desperate to finish his job of making his family legitimate. His family are just about talking to him, the business is all but legitimate and only the handing over over the criminal element to a strong family member remains. Michael seeks to make reparations to his family and to God as he throws his weight behind a godly bishop to become pope and rid the church of its ungodly element, whilst trying to explain to his estranged wife how he has ended up were he has. The tensions mount as, his enemies sensing weakness at the Corleone families core, seek to take power and settle scores. The ending of the film and the conclusion to the trilogy is extremely well done, if of course slightly inevitable. The trilogy, and in particular the third film, demonstrates that such Faustian deals, prosper no-one except the devil and leaving a strong moral message that the only way to protect those you love is to never give in or collude with evil; but instead to fight against it, even if it takes from you, your very life. Michael, ends up a deeply unhappy man, cut off from everyone he ever loved, sitting on a chair alone with only a small dog for company, with everything he ever worked for having crumbled into the dust. It is for this reason that I vote for the third film as the best, and most well written and as a fantastic conclusion to a brilliant trilogy.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2010 10:02 am

    Well written and well said! Having seen all three films, by far the third is the greatest for me. I think its because although the ending is bleak, there is this glimmer of redemption that Corleone had in his grasp, but lost ultimately to the unending consequences of his former lifestyle. “The wages of sin is death.” I think its a timely message to anyone who believes that living a life apart from God will prosper. In the end, this kind of life only destroys itself and those around them.

  2. December 4, 2010 10:10 am

    Thanks Martyn (The Bear), the other passage I thought relevant was Romans 1:24,25: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts… They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” Seems fitting as Michael worships his family and they worship him, either in awe of fear. We’ll have to have a Godfather III evening, accompanied by Pizza and Italian beer!!

  3. February 10, 2011 12:19 am

    Great blog, please join mine

  4. Hektor permalink
    June 27, 2011 10:01 pm

    The third film was in no objective way the best. It was better than it’s reputation, but if it’s the best of the three, then it’s one of the five best movies ever. And that’s just crazy talk. The whole Immobilare\Rome\Pope conspiracy was far fetched, overwrought and overly complicated. Vincent Mancini just came out of nowhere and the more I see the movie the less I’m impressed with Andy Garcia’s performance. The villains pale compared to those of the first two films–Sollozo, Barzini, Hyman Roth. Eli Wallach was okay, but I kept thinking “Tuco” from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” with a nice suit. Joey Zaza? Fat Tony anyone. Sofia Coppola. Nuff said.

    This is the third best Godfather film by a supertanker not a boat length.

  5. September 12, 2011 9:52 pm

    I have watched all three films Mike and I am also a big fan of the Godfather. The third one is the best for sure 🙂 Interesting post!

  6. September 13, 2011 3:46 pm

    The Godfather is every film maker and film lover’s first choice.I love all the parts….no second thoughts there 😀

  7. December 11, 2011 11:40 am

    Oooo, I’ve seen only a part of Godfather I and would have enjoyed every Italian conversation except that ‘mafias’ leave us devastated with their hateful acts. They are still out there… oh I forgot Godfather is just a movie…

  8. youcef permalink
    March 27, 2012 10:54 am

    the godfather is the best movie in the history of the cinema

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