The film came seventeen years after part 2 and twenty years have advanced in the story. A tense, furrowed and diabetic Michael Corleone desperately seeks to erase the past and buy respectability for the family. The series could well serve as a model for the depth of in-family ties, with the scepter of fratricide thrown in. The film starts with a ceremony where the Vatican confers a distinction on him in return for a donation of a hundred million (dollars, of-course). But then he is tied up in the knots of the past and the harder he tries and the higher he goes the dirtier and messier it gets. He is haunted by the murder of his elder brother which he ordered. His wife Kay has been separated since long.
The chain of evil and corruption leads right up to the papacy and the poisoning of a newly elected pope. This is yet another feast of killings, each served with the love , artistry and craftsmanship of a master chef. The movie is further spiced with a love interest in the infatuation of Michael's daughter Mary, played by Coppola's daughter Mary, for her ultra-violent first cousin and future Don Vincent. All three films break free from the dark brown interiors which set the pervasive mood, with tracts in the beauty and charm of the sun drenched Sicilian landscape, with it's quaint and weathered villas and timeless gardens and vineyards, a land of olives and tomatoes.
The film is marked with pageants and ceremonies like the first two. The murders, mostly of rival crooks, are events of victorious jubilation, to the accompaniment of music, fireworks and crowds. Murder in Coppola's films is cathartic more than foul, nor really so serious, any more than in Hitchcock or Agatha Christie. Michael's remorse seems comical at times (like a poor cousin of Macbeth) as though the movie had tired of it's own genre.
On the whole, comparisons aside, the film is an engrossing conclusion to the series. Unfortunately there does not seem room for yet another sequel, although the movie does leave a third generation Godfather , the illegitimate son of the late headstrong Santino of Part 1, whose temper cost him his life, on the loose. But if ever there were to be one, I'm sure it would do well, since the Corleones are as addictive as Harry Potter.