It’s worrying that 1974’s ‘The Godfather Part II’ is now best known for being the film-lover’s kneejerk answer to the question ‘which sequel is superior to the original’? It’s a pointless discussion, because both films are damn close to perfect: two opposing but complementary sides of the same coin. If ‘The Godfather’ was a knife in the dark, its sequel is the long, slow death rattle; if the first film lusted after its bloodthirsty antiheroes, the second drowns itself in guilt and recrimination.
Two stories run in parallel in ‘Part II’. In the first, a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) rises to power in New York, fuelled by vengeance and brute, old-world morality. In the second, set 50 years later, his son Michael (Al Pacino) struggles to reconcile his father’s ideals with an uncertain world, and finds himself beset on all sides by treachery and greed. This is quite simply one of the saddest movies ever made, a tale of loss, grief and absolute loneliness, an unflinching stare into the darkest moral abyss.