The Two Popes (2019) – Film Review

Premiering late last year on Netflix, Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’ new film The Two Popes tells the story of Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and his successor Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce).

This film is one was I was intrigued to watch, admittedly only to see these two amazing actors together, riffing off each other, and I was not disappointed. Two Popes is a glorious showcase of the acting abilities of Hopkins and Pryce. Both actors deliver outstanding performances, and each and every scene wth the two of them simply talking to one another and spending time together is captivating.

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Powerhouse performances aside, Meirelles has constructed a lovely film, telling what one would assume to be a film about religion in a very human, and real way. Though one could be deceived by the title, this film in no way is preachy or heavy in overtones of God and religion. For a film about two popes, there’s very little focus on the religious ideologies; the focus is on the people, power and personalities, then it is an advertisement for the church.

This is primarily a character study of our current Pope, Francis, and how his progressive views have since been embraced, and the path that has led him to the papacy.

One way through which the film remains grounded is the cinematography. The angles chosen are often intimate, focusing on these two men as they discuss their lives, and the church. During the intense dialogue sequences between the pair, the viewer is never left bored, with camera movement and zooms throughout. The sharp zooms and refocusing was engaging and lent itself almost to documentary inspired camera work.

The film can be split into two sections – the modern day discussions and tension between Benedict and Francis (called by his name Jorge during the film whilst he’s still a cardinal), and flashback’s to Jorge’s time in Argentina as a young priest.

Some of the sequences featuring young Jorge are shot in black and white, and are told with honesty and integrity, giving us a deeper understanding of the character and how is has become the man we are seeing now.

For fans of cinema, as well as fans of these two brilliant actors, I can highly recommend The Two Popes. 

4.5/5

Streaming now on Netflix.

 

 

 

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