The Godfather Trilogy: 50th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD review
If there’s a film saga that has received critical acclaim across multiple generations, it’s The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola’s epic, a three-part, ten-hour work, defined a genre and launched the careers of legendary actors Al Pacino and Robert de Niro. It goes without saying that the Dolby Vision restoration in 4K is one of the most eagerly awaited home video releases in years.
The Godfather tells the story of Don Video Corleone and his family, spanning nine decades, as their criminal organisation grows to become an international empire. The film is a portrayal of the ambition behind the American dream, as well as corruption within the judiciary, executive and legislative powers. It’s a story of ruthless felons but also of people who hold the sanctity of family values in high regard. It’s an opera, a tale of wars and rivalries, and one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinema.
Paramount spent three long years restoring the picture to its full glory. Work on the process started in 2007 with Robert Harris. “From September 2006 through July of 2007, we pushed the limits to create 4K […] that would make Gordon Willis smile and meet the needs of Mr Coppola. And yet, with all our searching, certain shots eluded us, and we were forced to scan dupes, masters or CRIs (colour reversal negatives) toward our goal,” said Harris. The 2022 restoration looked for more missing material – which was miraculously found.
This work’s objective – beautifully accomplished – was to use the 4K format not to give a modern, crisp angle, but to faithfully reinstate the original look of The Godfather. The director, Francis Ford Coppola, supervised the project that involved the checking of hundreds of film stocks to identify the best possible material to utilise. Each frame was restored, removing line scratches, stains and dirt, and colour grading was performed to deliver the dynamic range in the most considerate way.
At first glance, while it’s not disappointing, there’s a lack of wow factor. But then this beautiful, authentic restoration grows on the viewer, who can fully embrace the vision of Coppola and cinematographer Gordon Willis. It captures the true essence of a natural, at times soft, but warm filmic beauty.
The colours mesmerise, from 1940s New York to the Nevada lake, from the Cuban streets to snowy landscapes; the heat of Sicilian summer has never been so real. It’s hard to think of a more faithful, balanced, naturalistic way to perform a restoration.
The bonus features
Fans will be delighted to see a number of all-new special features, including Preserving the Godfather, Capturing the Corleones and an in-depth restoration comparison. On top of that, there’s the introduction from Francis Ford Coppola, a section on the making of the original Godfather and additional scenes, footage on filming locations, photos and storyboards, as well as, for the first time, the theatrical release of The Godfather Part III. It’s a very rich box set, testament to the legacy that this masterpiece is leaving.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
The Godfather Trilogy: 50th Anniversary Edition is available on 4K UHD (also as a Collector’s Edition) and digital format now.
Watch the trailer for the Godfather Trilogy: 50th Anniversary Edition here: