The Two Popes (2019)

The Two Popes (2019)

Movie Details

Movie: The Two Popes (2019)
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, and Juan Minujín
Movie Genres: Comedy/Documentary
Release date: 29 November 2019
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Languages: English, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, French, and German
Duration: 2h 05m


The Two Popes (2019)


Two elderly gentlemen meet in the sunny garden of a vast Italian villa. Apart from their common belief in God, they don’t have much in common. One is a moderate progressive, the other a staunch conservative. One loves football, the other has never seen a single match in his life. Their polite small talk gradually develops into a heated argument that continues into the next day. Lest I forget, the first is called Bergoglio, the second Ratzinger. It is 2012 and one of the most fundamental moments in the history of the modern Catholic Church is approaching.

Netflix ended this year’s cinematic stunt just before Christmas with a “historical reconstruction” of the background to the resignation of Benedict XVI and the accession of Pope Francis. Although it might seem from the Golden Globe nomination in the Drama category that we were treated to a dense theological and moral debate, this is not the case. As the name of the screenwriter suggests, we have a rather unconventional buddy movie here.

In recent years, Anthony McCarten has become an expert on biopics that are mainstream enough to appeal to a wide audience and at the same time give the main actors a wide enough field to play the role of their lives. The fact that three actors have already won an Oscar for their characters speaks for itself – Redmayne for The Theory of Everything, Oldman for Darkest Hour, and Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody. In addition, the mentioned films can be considered above average successful, while the biography of Queen earned almost a billion.

This time McCarten decided to adapt his play and it shows. Two actors, one exterior, one intimate interior, a more elaborate flashback, final climax in the Sistine Chapel. Four acts, these days a sympathetically austere two hours. Done, curtain, over. All this under the completely confident leadership of director Meirelles. At the same time, how he builds our relationship with both characters is exemplary – at the first meeting, he observes everything rather from a distance, or even directly with the “eye of God”, later during the conversation over wine, when the ice melts, he chooses the details.

Together with the dynamic editing and the heretical music selection (ABBA!), it turns out that the director of the City of Gods was the best possible choice for McCarten’s decision when he conceived the whole conflict between the pope and the then-cardinal as a slightly more moderate version of Give yourself a break, friends. Only in it, two seniors are not arguing like two roosters in a garbage dump about a woman, but about the direction of the largest church in the world. A seemingly controversial choice, especially for such an ancient institution, is the best solution for the Vatican’s tarnished reputation.

Although we cannot avoid even more serious topics such as sexual abuse of children, it happens with hints and literally behind closed doors. At the same time, McCarten is not afraid to open up even more burning topics, after all, all the flashbacks are dedicated to Bergoglio’s controversial relationship with the Argentine fascist junta.

As with McCarten’s previous films, however, these dark places of history are not important, he merely brushes them lightly to continue creating monuments – Mercury, Churchill, Francis. Only Francis, because despite the title, we will certainly not learn anything about the past of Benedict XVI, because the Hitler Youth, the Second World War, or the euthanasia of his disabled Nazi brother would have moved this film somewhere completely different.

The minimal background of the previous pope causes occasional hints of a slight parody of the grumpy sage, but Anthony Hopkins masterfully balances the old man’s quirks and the enormous burden the Holy See brings on itself. Even the few overly cheerful moments like watching Commissioner Rex or sitting over pizza are meant to humanize an inaccessible character like Benedict XVI, not to ridicule him. Jonathan Pryce as Bergoglio, a likable man from the people, had a slightly easier role, yet he also does a very precise job and thoroughly enjoys the interplay with his counterpart. If one would also welcome a sequel, for example, a road movie about a trip through the Italian countryside.

The Two Popes is an old-world feel-good film in which the two noble characters are treated with even preacher-like respect. However, it never degenerates into a dull eulogy, rather it becomes the kind of movie you’ll look for when you’re drooling and craving something relaxing. If you’re looking around the greater Vatican wilderness, you have to go to HBO’s Sorrentino’s The Young/New Pope.

And if for nothing else, The Two Popes is a must-watch for the end credits, which are one of the kindest and funniest moments of the last decade.

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