Now, first off, I want to say that I have actually seen The Godfather before. It is a good movie. It is a freaking long movie. But most every part of it is chock full of detail and great acting, so multiple viewings bring new things with it each time.
The Power of the Family
One thing that particularly caught my notice this time was the fact that what keeps the Godfather's organization together is this powerful sense of family. With this movie, you really get the impression that everyone in the Corleone family is out looking for each other's backs. They cook for each other, attend gatherings and weddings together, and watch each other's backs with unmatched dedication. While you don't see much of other organizations, you clearly get the sense that they are merely in it for the money and the power, while the Godfather is in it to provide for his family and for his own sense of justice. An example would be the offer made to him that would involve him entering the narcotics trade. Though fantastic amounts of wealth and power can be found by embracing this new industry, he elects not to because of the danger it could pose to him and his family. Sadly, this decision ends up making things more dangerous for them than they could have foreseen.
The one area where this is clearest is within the relationship the Godfather has with his youngest son, Michael Corleone. Despite the fact that Michael is incredibly smart, savvy, and skilled, the Godfather never wants him to join the family business. Despite the fact that Michael would clearly add to the power and prestige of the Corleone family, the Godfather tries to veto any of Michael's involvement in the family's dirtier affairs. This is both a powerful love and a dedication to something greater than mere wealth and power. Family.
The Cracks in the Shield
However, I also noticed for the first time that this approach is doomed to failure in the world of the mafia. It could have been a mistake in the writing or maybe it was deliberate, but it actually makes no sense why the Corleone family should all be so dedicated, trustful, and open with each other. No less than three times throughout the movie, the Corleone family is betrayed by friends and family from within. Paulie, Tescia, and that asshole who beat his wife. Each of these people ended up causing irreperable damage to the Corleones. Yet, despite this, you never see the Corleones responding in a way that makes much sense. If I were in that scenario, I wouldn't trust anyone for a while. Tescia in particular was one of the longest standing members of the family, and if you can't trust him, you can't trust anyone.
Anyways, my point is that, while the family arms up to prepare for assaults from the outside, it is clear that the real threat is from within, and you rarely see them act in a way that would prevent internal damage. Perhaps this is a fault in the story. Or perhaps this is the way it was meant to be. We see that the family-focused approach of the Godfather is out of date and unwise. And this does lay the seeds for what becomes Michael's own approach to 'godfathering', which features an absence of trust and a focus in security and fortune above even family. It is hard to tell. But it is something I thought about while watching the movie.
In case you haven't seen it already, The Godfather is a great movie about one mafia family in post-World War II America. What makes it particularly appealing is how the Godfather is portrayed as a lesser evil among a handful of worse families and worse evils. Also, the stage is set for a dichotomy between the godfathering styles of the original Godfather and his son Michael Corleone. Both of these aspects make the movie, and the trilogy, an amazing and memorable one, along with epic acting all around. If you haven't seen it, go see it, unless the concept does not have any appeal to you. If you have seen it, go see it again, because it is just that awesome.
P.S. - The cat that the Godfather holds in the first scene deserves an Oscar.