The opening mood is private, in an enclosed space, as a man of steady nerves and cool judgment listens. His countenance is studying that of a man asking for a violent favor. In return, he asks for friendship. A strategic business agreement. This is the work of Don Corleone (Marlon Brando), the leader of a mafia clan.
Yet the opening scene is a contrast of images. As the Don discusses sinister matters indoors, a family wedding on the outside presents a culture of cheerfulness, close family ties, and a sense of familial priorities.
Then the saga unfolds in its path down to inevitability. The Don, unlike his tendency to grant favors, rejects an offer to do business with the Sollozzo family (led by a performance by Al Lettieri) that sets off a repercussion of violence that is carefully and ruthlessly orchestrated. The Don is attacked in broad daylight by armed men and the argument is that its business, not personal. Not for the sons of the Don though, particularly the eldest Sonny(James Caan), who along with the advice of the family lawyer(Robert Duvall) and his youngest brother Michael(Al Pacino) plot their will for revenge. The women in the family, however, such as Michael’s girlfriend ( Diane Keaton) are not kept informed.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and shot by Gordon Willis, the film examines the violent operations of gangsters and presents the Corleone’s as a tragic case whereby a close family is dismantled by the perfidious nature of their business. The music by Nino Rota underlines the tone and the performances heighten the personalities and feelings of its characters.