The Two Popes review
How many of you have gone to your grandma's house and saw a picture of the pope hanging on the wall? Chances are, your grandmother looks to the pope at the same level of a saint or an angel. On one hand, I can understand why. The pope isn't just seen as the leader of the Catholic Church. He's also seen as the figure who stands as a symbol for that blurred line between human leadership and God-level spirituality. He represents a position we've had for a thousand years as people have looked to him as a leader in Christianity, even if their not religious or spiritual.
We also have to understand that, like any person, even the pope is just as human as you and me. We rarely get to know the few people that have the honorary position that is pope. What does it mean to represent the Catholic Church? How much power should it have? Should the church move in a direction to better align with the views of the modern world or stay the same? Like a lot of things, you'll get a different answer depending on who's the pope. Stuff like that is explored in The Two Popes.
In 2005, Pope John Paul II has died and the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (played by Jonathan Pryce) travels to Rome to elect the next one. Though he's popular amongst the other Cardinals, the frontrunner Joseph Ratzinger (played by Anthony Hopkins) has the majority vote and becomes Pope Benedict XVI. Seven years later, the Catholic Church becomes involved in controversy when the Vatican Leaks are unveiled and there's debate to how much Pope Benedict XVI had a part in that.
At the same time, Bergoglio is looking to resign as archbishop, but he needs the Pope's permission to do so and has failed to receive any notification that his letters had gotten to him. Just as he's about make a trip out to Rome, he's given an invite by Benedict XVI to the Pope's summer residence. It's here the two debate about the Church's place in the modern world and how much it's really tried to keep up with the modern world. Bergoglio is also taken aback at the luxury the Pope lives in, compared to his personal, down to earth views in which he'd rather be at a level simple to the people. The two talk about their histories, Christianity, and how Bergoglio may have a bigger role to play in the Catholic Church.
The Two Popes is more then just two older men talk about god and the Catholic Church. It's a beautifully crafted and engaging story of two people who dislike each other, but do everything to appear in a state of compromise. There's a reason that Pope Francis gets a lot of good press, and that's because he's one of the few high profile people who seems genuinely honest about his giving nature. This is also why the Catholic Church had needed someone like him for a while.
What makes this such a brilliant movie is how it seems both small with its plot and large with it's story. At first, I thought that this was going to be like The Trip where the focus was just on these two guys and the conversations they were going to have. But over the course, it covers a lot of topics, but the standout is about Pope Francis' backstory, what drew him to the church, and the regrets he's had. It's proof that even those with troubled backgrounds can still come out as saints.
What helps is both actors Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins are phenomenal in their performances who each seem to represent different viewpoints of the church and why you'd have to agree or disagree with what they think is right. In fact, there were times in which I almost confused Jonathan Pryce for the real Pope Francis. I was also surprised that the entire movie was shot on soundstages, given how close it looks like their in the Sistine Chapel or the relaxation quarters of the Vatican. Impressive is the best word to describe the level of quality we have.
I'll give this four and a half Pope hats out of five. Though parts of the backstory can go on a little longer then they need to, I found myself really engaged with The Two Popes. The language is written a lot like a play and it really makes the overall movie a lot better. Even if your not religious or spiritual, I still recommend this if you really want to understand that there is a lot of humanity within the Popes. I give this movie my blessing.