The Godfather: Part III: The Last Don

1979: twenty-odd years after The Godfather: Part II. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has made the move to legitimate business, it just took a little longer than he imagined. The New York crime business has been given to Joey Zasa and the Corleone crime empire is now legal. Nearing sixty years old, Michael is now thinking about his family’s future. His charity, headed by his daughter Mary Corleone (Sofia Coppola) has given $100m to the Catholic Church. Things are stable, but Sonny’s son Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) starts a feud with Zasa. These are long-term effects, including ones of deadly and financial natures, including Michael’s deal with the Church.

My relationship with this trilogy of films can be represented in a single quote: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” says Michael and I can never get away from these movies because they’re so damn good. And what get’s me, is this film gets so much unnecessary hate. The only negative worth talking about is the epic miscast of Sofia Coppola. She can’t act. But she doesn’t ruin the film like many say. And this film isn’t that bad. What it suffers from is ‘Dark Knight Rises Syndrome’ which is when a trilogy has two excellent movies followed by one that is not as good. Hence, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight preceding The Dark Knight Rises.

Andy Garcia plays Vincent Mancini (Corleone), the son of Sonny Corleone who got whacked in The Godfather
(The Godfather: Part III, Paramount Pictures)

Having been privy to the countless insults of the last movie, mostly at Sofia Coppola, I am inclined to disagree. Sure, Coppola is miscast but I repeat, it’s not enough to ruin the film. Her part on its own wasn’t that bad too a point that it ruined the cinematic experience. A legitimate criticism is that Robert Duvall didn’t return to play the family’s lawyer and Don Vito’s adopted son Tom Hagen. The film would have been enhanced with his acting presence, the same presence he brought to the first two movies. Yet, this movie introduced Andy Garcia as Vincent Mancini and he wins in the role. I loved him in the movie and I completely buy him as Sonny’s son. Vincent is his father’s son.

Sofia Coppola is grossly miscast as Mary Corleone. Someone like Winona Ryder (Stranger Things) or Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinnie) would have been better cast as Mary, opposite Garcia’s Vincent Mancini. Coppola is wooden and annoying. Yet, she is still watchable for the duration of the movie because the rest of the returning cast are still as great as they were in 1972 and 1974 in the last two movies. She stiff, but it’s not in every scene. There are some scenes that are quite good whilst her acting in others deserve Razzie recognition. That said, she learnt her lesson and went into writing and directing and even picked up a screenplay Oscar for Lost in Translation. Not bad.

Connie (Shire) returns; and while Mikey is doing nothing, she’s got some big fucking balls, with Vincent 
(The Godfather: Part III, Paramount Pictures)

As always, Al Pacino delivers. From Carlito’s Way to Donnie Brasco to Scarface to Heat to Serpico to Insomnia to The Insider, Pacino delivers, and Part III is no different. He shows us an ageing mob boss. He is losing his health, self-respect and his family. I never cared for Kay Adams but I always enjoyed Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) in the role. I liked Talia Shire as Connie a hell of a lot more. And I liked how Connie has a bigger role in Part III than she did in the previous two movies. She’s not just a woman of the family who must succumb to gender roles. She’s a person, and while Michael struggles, she shows that’s she’s Vito Corleone’s daughter, especially in partnership with Vincent.

Andy Garcia is a machine. The more times I watch this movie, the more I love Andy Garcia as Vincent Mancini. He never puts a foot wrong. Even when he shares scenes with Sofia Coppola, he kills it. Their arc is an interesting one. They’re cousins but they didn’t grow up knowing each other so it’s like falling in love with a stranger. And after watching Jamie and Cersei in Game of Thrones, stuff like that really doesn’t bother me as much as it should. The film’s incest arc is done well and done in a way that isn’t grotesque to watch, but there’s more carnivalesque elements to it, as it’s very European in its romance: passionate and flamboyant, yet subtle. Well-thought out indeed.

Diane Keaton returns as Michael Corleone’s ex-wife Kay Adams in The Godfather: Part III
(The Godfather: Part III, Paramount Pictures)

The Godfather: Part III is still a great movie. The scene outside the opera house is well-shot and climatic. It’s a fitting conclusion to my favourite trilogy of all time and that final shot of Michael, now an old man in Sicily sitting in a chair, melts my heart every time I see it. This trilogy is all about the journey and every time I watch these movies, they always bring tears to my eyes. Not only because of the great characters but also because Nino Rota’s score, and how Coppola and Puzo have represented the symbol of family. Family matters, even if they’re mobsters, and these films show the cultural importance of the family unit and how we can apply that to our own lives today.

The story of the Corleones is always worth talking about, whether we’re talking about the trilogy or even the books including Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. In addition, Puzo’s The Sicilian and The Last Don are also worthy reads with The Sicilian talking about Michael time in Sicily when he went into exile after killing Solozzo and Captain McKluskey in the first movie/novel. The first novel, and the movies at least, are timeless classics. One of the most-criticised things about Part III is that it’s melancholy and dramatic, but also how Michael has changed from how he was as a young man. Don’t people change over time? The sadness is needed, I’d hate for it to have a Disney ending.

Mary (Coppola) and Michael (Pacino) shares a father-daughter moment in The Godfather: Part III
(The Godfather: Part III, Paramount Pictures)

This movie suffers from ‘Dark Knight Rises Syndrome’ and it’s not worth the hate that it receives as soon as its name is mentioned. It’s still a brilliant achievement, and managed to pick up seven Oscar nods in 1991. I think I’ve rambled on for long enough now. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Just make sure it’s for a legitimate reason and not Michael’s excellent three-film character development.

Nearly three decades later, The Godfather: Part III is as timeless as its predecessors … in my opinion