“Goodfellas”, easily the greatest gangster film ever made, it is a fascinating evocative, murderous saga of day to day life in a tight knit mafia family. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it stars the dazzling Ray Liotta playing the main character “Henry Hill”, Robert De Niro plays the unorthodox Tough Guy James ‘Jimmy’ Conway, Joe Pesci as the hard headed Tommy DeVito and Paul Sorvino as the quiet yet reserved mob boss. The film boasts and amazing array of star and there never seems to be a stop to the surprise cluster of stars who pop up during the movie.
The basis comes from the true-life story of Hill who grew up with dreams of becoming a gangster, skipping school for months at a time to work for the cab service across the street run by mob boss Paul Cicero. The way of life for a mobster, as seen through young Henry’s impressionable eyes, is the ultimate way of life: as Henry explains, “To me, it meant being somebody in a neighborhood that was full of nobodies. They weren’t like anybody else. I mean, they did whatever they wanted. They double-parked in front of a hydrant and nobody ever gave them a ticket. In the summer when they played cards all night, nobody ever called the cops. He’s like the kid in the candy store, only this time, stealing is the only way to get what he wants, with no fear of penance.
The Movie starts with an extra close shot of a juvenile Henry Hill perceptively studying the gangsters from across the street; this scene was a stunningly creative treat for the eyes which made director Martin Scorsese one of the most pre-eminent directors of the era. In addition to the nail bitingly spectacular window scene, the introduction also included a cleverly written narration which grasped the audiences’ attention and feeds their imagination in an awe-inspiring vocal documentation of his childhood.
I think Scorsese’s choice to include the voice-over of the Hill character is his smartest move in the film. There’s so much that we learn about the criminal profession through his explanations of life in the mob: for instance, when he recalls that “Paulie might have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn’t have to move for anybody,” we have a complete sense of Paul as a brooding mob boss, and all in less than two sentences.
Scorsese used dialogue to its utmost advantage, guiding us through a world that offers “protection for the kinds of guys who can’t go to the cops. Due to his utter admiration of the Gangster lifestyle, Henry as a youngster decided to insinuate himself in the mafia by starting off as a valet parker to the gangsters , but from that he swiftly advanced up the ranks to a vandaliser of enemy cars. The storyline soon concludes to one of the most gripping scenes at the start of the movie , Henry came back home from work and unaware that his father had received a letter from the school stating that he had not been in school for six months, so his father infuriated decided to teach Henry a very serious lesson.
The directors’ choice of camera angles really emphasized the circumstances Henry was in; the camera was deliberately placed above Henry and under Henry’s father to show Henry’s vulnerability at that moment in time and it also shows the anger in his father’s face and the viciousness that empowered it. Henry then goes to say “everybody takes a beating sometimes” this scene was simply remarkable. This scene also momentarily marks the end of Henry’s family in his life.
The directors’ use of camera angles really varies from scene to scene for instance in the scene were Henry Hill was parking the Cadillac’s, the camera was purposely placed underneath the actor to place emphasis on how astonishingly abnormal it looked for a child to be driving a car, And it also showed how delighted Henry was to finally be a part of an anomality which he once aspirated to become. Another compelling use of camera angles was when a young Henry Hill was sprinting away from a fortune of exploding cars.
The director’s use of an extra long shot camera angle goes to show the audience just how many cars are being destroyed just for the sake of the movie, additionally it subsequently shows the audience just how far and how notorious Henry had become. The scene is then accompanied by a freeze frame of Henry running from the scene and the colossal, mammoth like fire cloud behind him. This scene was a real treat for the eyes and will surely appeal to the vast teenage audience who are likely to view this movie and are attracted to films with extreme destructiveness and hardcore violence.
The director’s use of sound was simply amazing due to the abundance of non diegetic sounds such as the narration which adds a cosy story like effect to the movie, the movies soundtrack changes according to the era , for example in the adolescent phase of the movie, as Henry was beginning his rise up the ranks of the mafia, the soundtrack was “Must I forever be a beggar; Whose golden dreams will not come true? , Or will I go from rags to riches? My fate is up to you” This choice of music is appropriate for various reasons , One being that it deeply associates with the circumstance Henry was at that moment in his life, because at that stage Henry was still a deprived, underprivileged boy who dreamed to one day be amongst the rich and prosperous, Another Reason was because it fit exceptionally into that era of the film, his childhood was set in the 1950s where everyone still drove vintage , classic cars and were dressed exceptionally formal and the music “Rags to Riches” was written in the 1940s by Tony Bennett so it fit to the conventions of what the music would had been like at that time.
When Henry Hill jumped from adolescence to adulthood the music also changed from the formal 50s style music to the rebellious 60s, the scene starts with a slowly moving up shot of a dashing Henry Hill leaning on the car with 60s gangster attire and the soundtrack was “Can’t We Be Sweethearts” by the Cleftones.
Although the soundtrack has nothing to do with the happenings in the film, it does generate a change of atmosphere from the cosy light hearted comfort of childhood to the hardship and vicious malice of adulthood. An astonishingly violent, yet wonderfully alluring, epic, it seems almost beyond belief that GoodFellas is based on real life; the script is meandering, complex and enthralling. With its mark of authenticity, the dialogue seems absolutely spot on – accurate and believable in its every idiom. When voiced by Scorses’ vast array of characters the words spring to life, filling every phrase with energy and illuminating the speaker with a glint of recognition.
However, De Niro and Pesci move far beyond this point; the pair inhabit their characters so thoroughly, taking on every mannerism and tic, that they become deeply unnerving. Pesci is stunning as a volatile, on-edge killer while De Niro is no less menacing as a quieter, paranoid killer. While the story twists and turns, exploring minute details of the mobsters existence, absolute control is kept over every technical issue. The camera-work is exceptional, smoothly gliding one moment then snapping into a freeze-frame the next. Together with the perfect soundtrack, which mirrors the mood of key scenes closely, these issues enhance GoodFellas atmosphere to an all-enveloping degree. A superb experience, where every moment counts, from a dedicated film-maker.