The Godfather is a great story however it’s told, but The Godfather: Part III, which moves the action farther away from Mario Puzo’s original novel, is also great cinema. Scenes like the helicopter hit or the montage towards the end of the film showing the fates of the main villains are a joy to watch and the film maintains both the grittiness and warmth of the original two.
Set in 1979 – after the release of the first two films – The Godfather III shows the next generation of la famiglia Corleone, scarred from the events of The Godfather II and out-of-ease in a more modern world.
20 years on and Michael is still haunted by his killing of his brother, and the film explores feelings of guilt, regret and of trying to move on from a difficult past. This gives it a slower and more thoughtful mood than the earlier instalments, but then part of the beauty of any of the Godfather films is their skilful blending of emotions.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t maintain the ferocity of the earlier films; in fact it’s probably the most cynically violent of the three. Over the whole film hangs a feeling that things just aren’t what they used to be: even mafia kids are going off to respectable opera careers, and the drug deals that wreaked such havoc in the original film are playground stuff compared to the international fraud seen here.
Incredibly, the events of the film are loosely based on reality. The sudden and mysterious death of Pope John Paul I in 1978 has prompted numerous conspiracy theories, often linked to revelations of massive corruption at the Vatican Bank. Michael’s confession in the film reminds us of his destructive past, but he still has the moral high ground over the Catholic Church itself.
While it may not have quite such an outstanding reputation as parts I or II, The Godfather: Part III is still a captivating film with all the poignancy, violence and emotion of its predecessors. The handing over of control over the family mirrors Michael’s rise in the first film and brings his life story to a neat close, without being either too twee or jarring. It’s not a happy ending, but then these are not happy films. The conclusion to the trilogy gives us a little bit more of the Corleone magic, and that is an offer nobody can refuse.