“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” ~Don Vito Corleone
It is the opinion of this writer that The Godfather is the most quoted movie ever made. Filmed in the early 1970’s when a disenfranchised audience was still hurting from the daily bad news from the Vietnam War and from the government’s betrayal in the Watergate break-in, director Francis Ford Coppola hadn’t a clue as to what the effect the movie would have to future film buff generations.
Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Abe Vigoda, John Cazale—the list goes on an on of great actors who starred in The Godfather. But for today’s Wednesday Warriors series, Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, the natural heir to the godfather’s family, hits today’s highlight.
A war hero, dating longtime friend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) and the son of Don Vito Corleone, one of New York’s most feared men, Michael Corleone didn’t want to be part of the family. He hated it. At his sister Connie’s wedding day, he says to Kay, “That’s my family, Kay. That’s not me.” This was after she pressed him to explain what Luca Brasi was doing sitting outside Don Vito’s office mumbling to himself. Michael simply told her the story of how his father and Luca dealt with someone opposing the family business, “Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.”
When an attempt on his father’s life forces Michael to flee to Italy, he meets the beautiful Apollonia (Simonetta Stefanelli). For the first time Michael falls in love. Soon after his father’s enemies catch up with Michael, however, Apollonia is the one who meets with fate. This causes Michael to turn inward, and all the energy he’d expended to stay away from the family business becomes the power he wields to protect his family at all costs.
The character Michael Corleone is a dark figure in fiction some would consider cold and ruthless. Orchestrating the murders of his enemies and using the vacuum in power to advance his own agenda speaks as a testament to his management style. When his brother Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) asks Michael, “Is it worth it? I mean, you’ve won, you want to wipe everybody out?” Michael answers without a hint of emotion, “I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom. Just my enemies.”
But Michael is a complicated man. Later in life, he comes to regret his life in the family and realizes his real flesh and blood family is what is more important to him than anything else is in the world. It’s that regret, which later turns to repentance that redeems Michael from the everyday fiery hell he had to live through in order to carry on with living. Only after he makes a solemn promise to turn from his life of crime does he finally find peace.
Have you seen any of The Godfather movies? What do you think of Michael’s progression through the ranks of his family?