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The 1972 film ‘The Godfather’ is an American movie based on a 1969 novel ‘the Godfather’ written by Mario Puzo. The film was directed by Francis Coppola and produced by Albert Ruddy. It starts Al Pacion and Marlon Brando, the leaders of an influential and powerful Italian crime family based in New York around the 1940s and 1950s (Schumacher 11). The story revolves around the life of Michael Corleone (Pacino) as he transforms from a humble Italian immigrant to a powerful and ruthless mafia boss (Barsam and Monahan 31). It also revolves around his Corleone family, especially their patriarch leader, Vito Corleone (Brando), and Sonny, the eldest and hotheaded son. This paper will analyze the film from Sonny’s perspectives on social life, business, and crime as he attempts to fit into the American society of the 1950s.
Analysis of Sonny and his view on life and society
Sonny, whose real names are Santino Corleone, is the eldest son of Don Corleone, a ruthless New York City Mafia and his wife, Carmela Corleone. He has three siblings, Fredo, Michael and Connie, and an adopted brother, Tom Hagen.
In this film, Sonny is portrayed as the most ruthless and violent member of the mafia family, whose main roles revolve around his father’s illegal business dealings. For instance, at a tender age of 16, Sonny is involved in a robbery within the city but does not reveal it to his family. The father only learns of the crime from Clemenza, an older Italian immigrant, who is depicted as Sonny’s role model and godfather. The father’s interrogation to find out why the young boy acts in such a manner at a tender age reveals some issues. The viewer can learn that the young boy is on the process of adapting to a criminal’s life and is prepared to lead this life.
For instance, Sonny proudly tells his father that he acted in such a way because he once saw Vito kill Don Fanucci. He then proceeds to tell his father that he is mature enough and ready to take over the family business, which he knows quite well that it is a dangerous and risky form of business (Dauth 17). Also, he tells his father than he is ready to sell “olive oil”, which tells the viewer that the young boy already knows the coded language that his father and other parties to the criminal business use. The father immediately learns that Sonny has grown up and is willing to engage himself in the illegal business, prompting him to send the boy to Clemenza for further training.
From his perspective, we realize that the illegal business is not only involving, but also needs adequate training to ensure that a person keeps secret and is experienced in sorting out drugs (Phillips 56). Also, we realize that the business has mentors who give lessons to the new entrants like Sonny. Moreover, we realize that there are specific titles in the business, which are given to persons who excel in illegal dealings. For instance, Sonny rises through the ranks at the age of 19 after he “makes his bone”, moving from a trainee to a “capo” in his father’s business (Barsam and Monahan 29). In fact, by the time World War II ends, the boy has risen to become the father’s trustee and underboss. In addition, Sonny is the apparent heir.
By analyzing his early experiences, we realize that his perspectives on life and money are based on his father’s role. For instance, by saying that he involved himself in a robbery because his father was also a criminal tells the viewer that the boy sees life from his family’s values and practices. The boy wants to copy his father or test his capabilities in crime.
Secondly, the reader is able to realize some things regarding crime and family life from Sonny’s point of view. For instance, the reader realizes that criminals, especially the drug Mafia in New York during and after the world war, were very protective of their families, despite being ruthless killers. Sonny is a good example of such a person. While he is ready to kill his rivals in business and the streets, he is very protective of his family members. He has a very close relationship with his younger brother Michael and sister Connie. The film attempts to describe how Sonny loves his sister, Connie, to the extent of killing Connies’ husband on allegations that he is mistreating her. This indicates the hard life that drug criminals and their families lead.
They are always protective of their families, but very crude when it comes to dealing with other people, especially business rivals. Using Sonny’s point of view on life, the viewer can determine social hardships and crime in a better way. One sympathizes with people like Sonny and Vitro because life makes them hard, but very soft when dealing with their families. Because they are hard on their rivals and business associates, they are aware that their families are under the risk of elimination by both their rivals and the authorities. Therefore, Sonny has a negative perception of most people outside his family. This perception explains why he kills Connie’s husband rather than sorting out the matter in a better way.
It is also clear that the criminals often cheat on their wives, despite protecting and giving them a worthy life. It is evident that these mafia leaders, despite being hardened criminals who can pull the trigger at any moment, are soft on women and children. For instance, Sonny often cheats on his wife, Sandra, with many women, including Connie’s bridesmaid Lucy Mancini. However, the viewer sympathizes with Sonny because being soft on women and having the extra amounts of cash seems to expose the mafia leaders to many women.
The reader also sees the impact of criminal life and greed for money on family members from Sonny’s point of view. Sonny is portrayed as a money-hungry individual who acts before thinking, especially if a deal seems to be good for him. For example, when Virgil Sollozo is backed by the dreaded Tattaglia Family to lure Vito into a narcotic deal, Sonny fails to notice the danger involved in the plan. His father realizes that this is just a trick meant to eliminate his family and give the Tattaglias some superiority in the drug trade. However, Sonny is willing to accept the offer due to his senseless way of doing things. When the father forces him to reject the deal, Sollozo realizes that the only way to force him to accept the offer is to assassinate Vito. This further shows how gang members are strongly attached to their families and can do anything to provide them with protection.
Sonny’s inability to perceive things from a professional way is perhaps due to his childhood exposure to violence. It is also the cause of his death because as the war between the two families escalates, Sonny is only able to order frequent raids on Tattaglias, but this yields nothing rather than exposing him to more dangers. It is also the cause of his death after Vincent sets him up.
Barsam, Richard and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies: An Introduction to Film. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 3rd Edition. 2010. Print.
Dauth, Brian. “Great Directors: Francis Ford Coppola.” Senses of Cinema. 39 (2006), Web.
Phillips, Gene. Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola. Lexington, KY: University Press of KY. 2004. Print.
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Schumacher, Michael. Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker’s Life. NY: Crown Publishers. 1999. Print.