Review: The Godfather Part II

6 out of 5 stars

Reviewer: Naomi Engel

A Tapestry of Sin, Redemption, and Legacy, Woven Through Faith and Family 


Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II is not merely a gangster film; it’s a sprawling saga that delves into the complexities of family, faith, and the allure of power. It is a masterpiece – possibly the finest movie ever made — even surpassing its predecessor, The Godfather Part I. It’s the film’s exploration of the themes of family, faith and power through a Christian lens that truly resonates. 

The Corleone family, steeped in a culture of violence and deceit, serves as a cautionary tale. Their power and influence are built on a foundation of sin, a stark contrast to the teachings of love, forgiveness, and compassion central to Christianity. 

At the film’s core lies Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), burdened by the weight of his choices. Haunted by the violence he unleashed, Michael desperately seeks a path to redemption. We see this in his strained relationship with his brother, Fredo (John Cazale). Michael’s paranoia and ruthlessness drive a wedge between them, a tragic illustration of how sin can fracture even the strongest bonds of brotherhood. 

The film doesn’t shy away from the corrupting influence of power. Michael, initially hesitant to embrace the darker aspects of the family business, succumbs gradually. His transformation from a war hero to a ruthless Godfather is a chilling reminder of how easily ambition can cloud morality. 

However, amidst the darkness, glimmers of hope emerge. Vito Corleone’s (Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro) flashbacks offer a stark contrast to Michael’s present. We see a younger Vito (De Niro), guided by a strong moral compass, seeking a path for his family built on respect and tradition. He embodies the concept of seeking forgiveness for past sins and striving for a better future. 

The film’s portrayal of the Catholic faith is nuanced. On the surface, the Corleones appear devout. They attend church, seek absolution, and even use religious imagery for their criminal activities. However, their actions betray their outward piety. Their adherence to a twisted code of “justice” contradicts the true principles of Christianity. 

This hypocrisy is particularly evident in the character of Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), the family lawyer. Torn between his loyalty to the Corleones and his own faith, Tom wrestles with the ethical implications of his actions. His eventual estrangement from Michael highlights the consequences of putting loyalty to a corrupt family above one’s faith and conscience. 

The Godfather Part II is not a film that offers easy answers. It presents a morally complex world where the lines between good and evil are often blurred. However, it does offer a powerful message about the importance of family, the dangers of sin, and the possibility of redemption. 

One of the film’s most powerful scenes takes place during communion. Kneeling beside his young son, Anthony, Michael appears to be seeking solace and forgiveness. This scene, juxtaposed with the violence Michael unleashes throughout the film, underscores the internal conflict he faces. He desperately desires peace for himself and his family, yet clings to the power that ultimately isolates him. 

The Godfather Part II, while not explicitly religious, offers a profound commentary on the themes central to the Christian worldview. It reminds us of the destructive nature of sin, the importance of family and forgiveness, and the enduring hope for redemption. While the Corleones may ultimately be consumed by their own darkness, the film leaves us pondering the choices we make and the legacy we leave behind.