How Michael, Not Sonny, Became the Boss Of Corleone Family!
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 classic “The Godfather” is a cinematic masterpiece that has captivated audiences for generations. Adapted from Mario Puzo’s novel, the film tells the story of the Corleone family and the power struggles within the mafia.
One pivotal scene stands out as a turning point, where it becomes clear that Michael Corleone, not his older brother Sonny, is destined to take the reins as the head of the family.
The scene begins with Sonny (James Caan) in the corner of a bright room, acting as the head of the family, sharing the center of the frame with his consigliere, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). Michael (Al Pacino) moves into the frame from the left as Tom Hagen moves to the right. Sonny doesn’t give Michael the respect he deserves, and it shows.
“Hey, Michael, come here, let me look at you… beautiful!”
As the scene unfolds, we witness the juxtaposition of Michael’s perceived innocence and his vengeful nature. The characters’ movements and the blocking of the scene reveal the power dynamics within the Corleone family. Sonny is erratic, insecure, and surrounded by others, while Michael remains calm, collected, and firmly seated in the center of the room.
The Power Shift
The power shift within the family becomes evident when Michael interjects after Tom Hagen and Sonny debate their next move.
“We can’t wait,” Michael says firmly. “He’s gonna kill pop, that’s it.”
At this moment, Michael presents his plan to retaliate against their enemies, despite Sonny’s initial dismissal. Michael’s steadfastness and intelligence shine through, marking the beginning of his ascendancy within the family.
Coppola masterfully uses cinematography to emphasize the shifting power dynamics in this scene. The camera movements, including panning and zooming, focus on the characters’ positions and interactions. Michael’s growing influence is highlighted as he envelops the entirety of the frame and solidifies his role in the family.
“Then I’ll kill them both.”
As Sonny tries to revert to the older-brother dynamic, Michael remains unwavering in his plan. By holding his ground, Michael ultimately wins over his family, showing his determination and cunning.
READ MORE: 7 Best Mafia Movies on HBO Max (Ranked!)
The Throne Metaphor
Throughout the scene, Coppola uses the chair as a metaphor for power and authority. Michael’s understanding of real power is evident as he chooses his seat and makes it the throne. Sonny’s misguided belief that sitting in the throne will grant him power ultimately exposes his weakness as a leader.
The scene serves as a microcosm of Michael’s character and the Corleone family itself, with the chair representing the burden of leadership and the consequences of power. This is further exemplified by the opening shot of “The Godfather Part II” and the phrase “heavy lies the crown.”
This pivotal scene in “The Godfather” marks the beginning of Michael Corleone’s rise to power. Through subtle nuances in staging, blocking, and cinematography, Francis Ford Coppola expertly foreshadows Michael’s eventual role as the boss of the Corleone family.