The Two Popes (2019)

two popes poster 2019 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, great acting

Interesting story but more fiction than reality

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Two Popes

Studio: Netflix

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  August 31, 2019 (Telluride Film Festival)/November 27, 2019 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

two popes jonathan pryce anthony hopkins

One, Two Popes here before you…that’s what I said now!

Pope John Paul II has died, and the Catholic Church’s cardinals have gathered to decide on the new pope. Joseph Ratzinger (Anthony Hopkins) finds himself appointed Pope Benedict XVI and faces a multitude of crises from the sex scandal to calls for modernizing the church. Locked in a traditional dogma, Pope Benedict calls upon progressive Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) from Argentina. Bergoglio is considering stepping down from his position, but finds his plans altered when Benedict reveals that he has his own plans for Francis’ future.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles, The Two Popes is fictionalized account of a summit between Pope Benedict XVI and the future Pope Francis. The film adapts the 2017 play The Pope by Anthony McCarten (who scripted the film). It premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and was released on Netflix on December 20, 2019 after a limited theatrical run. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Pryce), Best Supporting Actor (Hopkins), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

I am not Catholic, and I know I couldn’t go into The Two Popes expecting it to be a historical film. Despite having little background in the history of the Popes or the process in which pope is selected, the movie was interesting as a clash of ideals and ideas.

two popes pizza benedict francis jonathan pryce anthony hopkins

Pope’s taking a pep…and a Fanta

Even as a outside observer of the Catholic Church, the differences between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict are obvious. Benedict always seemed stodgy and old while Francis seems young at heart and fun. The movie is basically a conversation on how these two ideas can exist within the church and how the church can remain true to its beliefs while changing for current events. While it is nice to think that these two men pal around, confess their woes, and reveal their sins to each other, it doesn’t seem very realistic, but it more about how to advance in a different world for the church.

Though there are some bit supporting roles, the movie is largely Pryce and Hopkins vamping for two hours. The trick is to make both characters likeable in their own way, but Hopkins faces the unique challenge of being the fall guy. He’s facing a sex scandal that he’s enabled in the past and he likes the pomp and circumstance of the title…it isn’t necessarily flattering. His character also is internally aware of it. Pryce is the “fun one”, but he too is haunted by his past and the burden that he will face as Pope Francis. Both actors nail it.

two popes jonathan pryce pope francis

Woah…he was the next pope all along? Plot twist!!!

The movie also has some incredible sets. They created a full-size replica of the Sistine Chapel which included making the arts look real. It is an amazing accomplishment visually…plus, Pryce looks amazingly like Pope Francis, but Hopkins does a great job becoming Pope Benedict without necessarily looking like him.

The Two Popes is an interesting approach to a history that is only known to the people in the room (aka Pope Benedict and Pope Francis). While it isn’t necessarily historically accurate, it doesn’t need to be to discuss issues facing religious establishments all over the world. The problems of the Catholic Church are faced by other denominations, and the idea of moving forward or looking back is faced by society in general. While it is nice to think of “the Popes” watching a soccer match, it isn’t realistic…but it still is a nice coda to the idea that middle ground can be found.

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The 92nd Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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