THE TWO POPES review by Patrick Hendrickson – Anthony Hopkins & Jonathan Pryce get religious

THE TWO POPES review by Patrick Hendrickson – Anthony Hopkins & Jonathan Pryce get religious

THE TWO POPES tells the story of different meetings between Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. Along the way, the audience is given a view of each man’s election to the Papacy as well as some historical background for Pope Francis. Jonathan Pryce stars as Francis with Anthony Hopkins in the role of Benedict XVI. The two men are magnificent in their respective roles. The chemistry between them is engaging and this is particularly strong praise given that the entirety of this production hinges on the two lead performances.

The movie is not a particularly exciting one, but that is to be expected given the subject matter. The gravitas that the two stars bring is what maintains the investment. If their performances had been weaker then this film would be much more difficult to endure. That being said, it still can feel like a bit of a drag. Any point where the leads are not engaging in debate or discussion feels rather hollow. A good amount of attention is paid to Pope Francis’ background in Argentina as a young man. The period of his life from the time he first enters into the clergy to time spent under a dictatorial government in Argentina is shown in great detail through extended flashbacks. Juan Minujín takes over the role of Pope Francis as a younger man during these segments. These flashbacks are interesting to see, but feel a bit distracting from the main crux of the movie which is the ongoing discussion between Francis and Benedict XVI.

There is something to be said of the choice in casting Pryce, a Welshman, in the role of Francis, an Argentinian. Minujin is Argentinian so it begs the question of why a Latino actor could not have been chosen for the role of Francis in his older age. This is not a massive point of concern, but it is an odd decision. An additional odd decision is that Pope Benedict XVI is not given a similar amount of treatment. His past life is not showcased in the slightest and no actor portrays him as a younger man. This void has the stench of politics behind it in that Benedict XVI is a significantly more controversial public figure and a more conservative figure in the Catholic Church. This difference of opinion between Francis and Benedict XVI is addressed in the film and is in fact the cornerstone of the story, but it feels dishonest to give a more full picture of the life of Francis than of Benedict XVI.

Overall, THE TWO POPES is an interesting study of two immensely powerful religious figures. The two stars portray each of their respective roles with talent and ability. The bizarre decisions made by the filmmakers do detract from the experience but not to the point of making things completely unbearable, earning the production a 3/5.

THE TWO POPES premieres on Netflix on December 20, 2019

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