The Two Popes

The Plot:

Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) is voted in as Pope after the death of Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) is a close second, but it quickly becomes evident that Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio have very different outlooks on the future of the church. Benedict is a staunch traditionalist and sees strength in the churche’s history and stalwart nature, withstanding the tests of time. Bergoglio has a more liberal and flexible philosophy, seeing the church as a beacon for all to gather, worship and grow together.

When Bergoglio writes Pope Benedict in order to receive his permission to retire, his letter becomes a catalyst for one of the most significant moments in church history.

Kent’s Take:

“The Two Popes” is a deeply satisfying breath of fresh Italian air as two powerful men reveal their humanity and faults.

This very entertaining film will surprise viewers with its laughs, its intelligence and its heart.

Benedict and Bergoglio are two very different men. The German Benedict is an academic, strict traditionalist and struggles with humor. The Argentinian Bergoglio loves soccer and has gained his wisdom through struggle. Pope Benedict’s summoning of Cardinal Bergoglio ignites a fascinating debate and reveals each man’s journey to that moment in time, offering a peek into the souls and sins of each man.

Director Fernando Meirelles perfectly balances humor, spirituality and drama to bring audiences into a gorgeous and enlightening film.

Of course, the facts of this film are true, Benedict is actually Pope after the death of John Paul II. He certainly had a different outlook on the Catholic Churchs path and he did indeed resign as Pope to see Bergoglio voted in as Pope Francis. It is also true that these two men with opposing philosophies became good friends – however, the emotional mortar of this film is all speculation and cinematic enhancement, but what a spectacular take it is.

Both men are shown as pious, faithful and committed, but rarely comfortable with speaking freely. Both Pontiffs slowly build trust with one another as powerful men. As Benedict gets to know Bergoglio and begins to understand the man, he also realizes that he is the one to move the church forward – a relief that becomes a watershed moment.

Of the many strengths of this film, the acting performances stand out. Hopkin’s Benedict is very serious and humorless at the outset, but as the story unfolds, he softens. Pryce’s Bergoglio is more open and relatable, yet as his story unfolds, his happy-go-lucky demeanor becomes galvanized by his impending responsibilities.

“The Two Popes” beautifully contrasts the austere man with the carefree man as two powerful figures view their church from opposing angles – to find common ground and friendship.

Lynn’s Take:

A couple popes, sitting around talking, doesn’t sound like a riveting motion picture, but oh, it is fascinating.

With masterful direction by Fernando Meirelles, an absorbing, smart screenplay by Oscar-nominated Andrew McCarten and an acting showcase by two of our best artists, “The Two Popes” is a superb account of an interesting time in world history.

With finely crafted details about church traditions and millions of believers world-wide, the filmmakers show the humanity of two men thrust into greatness as spiritual leaders, wrestling with their pasts as well as their flaws and self-doubts. In this touching and inspirational film, humor is subtly woven in, as well as key music selections certain to make one smile.

Both Jonathan Pryce, as Pope Francis, and Anthony Hopkins, as Pope Benedict, use their expert skills as actors to bring these two real men to vivid life. Their work together is sensational, a real chemistry takes place among the pair as they become trusted confidantes. A never-better Pryce shows why people are naturally drawn to this humble man, while Hopkins brings out the oft-misunderstood qualities of introverted Ratzinger.

With the backdrop of the breathtaking artwork – Sistine Chapel frescoes! -- and structures of Vatican City, and the rich pageantry associated with centuries of Catholicism, “The Two Popes” is a feast for the eyes, too. Cesar Charone’s beautiful cinematography also captures colorful Latin America and the light is particularly noteworthy.

Illuminating and substantive, “The Two Popes” is one of the most surprising and satisfying delights of 2019.