The Two Popes (2019) Review

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis
Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI
Juan Minujín as Young Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Director: Fernando Meirelles

Behind Vatican walls, the conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and the liberal future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.

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The Two Popes at first didn’t sound particularly interesting to me, however I have heard some surprisingly good things about it, and I really like Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as actors. Additionally, it was being released on Netflix, so I checked it out when it was released there and found myself pleasantly surprised at how good it was.

The screenwriter of this movie is Anthony McCarten, who has written a lot of standard (at best) biopics, with the likes of The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour, and Bohemian Rhapsody, so that doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence right out the gate. The Two Popes however is by far his best script, and it’s actually based off a play. Now to get this out of the way, there’s probably a lot of things in this movie that didn’t happen, just by doing some googling there are some things that don’t quite add up. However, I get the impression that much of what’s in this movie is meant to represent the two leads, especially the perspectives of the liberal vs conservative, and watching the two coming to an understanding. The script is rather well written, with some great dialogue, especially between the two leads. They also switch between languages quite often, from English, to Italian, to Polish, to German, and more. While a lot of people aren’t going to be interested in them ovie because it’s people talking about religion, it’s surprisingly a movie where non religious people (or even just people who aren’t interested in the topic of religion) can like and appreciate it. It is a dialogue driven movie, and if you aren’t on board with it in the first 30 minutes, you’re probably not going to like it very much. The movie is also surprisingly funny, and that certainly helped the movie a great deal, making it somewhat entertaining. A big part of the movie is about Pope Francis’s past, and some of the decisions and mistakes he’s made. This part is actually essential to the movie, but there’s a feeling that it really slows down and drags the movie a bit. I’m not sure how it should’ve been handled, but these sections needed probably should’ve been done a little differently.

Most people watching the movie are going in for Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, and indeed they are great in their roles as Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. Both seem to have represented their characters, as well as their bliefs quite well. Pryce particularly shines as Pope Francis (not just because he looks exactly like him back in 2012), he’s at the heart of the movie throughout, and indeed it’s his movie really.

Director Fernando Meirelles takes what could’ve been a very boring movie that would’ve been handled in a mediocre way, and actually does some surprising things with it. His direction is actually one of the first things you notice when the movie starts. It’s edited very well, and you notice it more than you’d initially think you would. The cinematography is mostly good, it’s a very well shot movie, and it’s got a great look to it throughout. The reason I say ‘mostly good’ however is the use of handheld cameras, like it was going for a documentary feel to it. While I at first liked the unconventional use of it, it became annoying and unnecessary at a point, and wished they would just put the cameras on a tripod or something.

The Two Popes was better than it looked like it would be at first. It’s directed quite well, the script is good, and the two leads in Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins shine. I wouldn’t say that it’s great, and there are some issues I had with it, but I think it’s worth checking out whenever you get a chance. If you have a Netflix account, set aside a couple hours for it whenever possible.

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