The Two Popes
The Two Popes (2019) movie review
Based on a true story, a rather recent one at that, The Two Popes stars Jonathan Pryce as the liberal Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Anthony Hopkins as the conservative Pope Benedict. After Pope Benedict decides to vacate the Papacy for the first time since 1415, Cardinal Bergoglio is called upon to help forge a path for the changing Catholic Church, asking both men to find common ground in their beliefs. The Two Popes was released just before Christmas on Netflix, garnishing critical acclaim that resulted in several Golden Globe nominations and three Academy Award nominations, one for each lead, and one for Anthony McCarten’s screenplay.
Okay so, while I am very sure that reviewing any newer movies would not only be more relevant right not, but more interesting overall, in both an attempt to hype up the Oscars coming this February, and also to stall so I can finally see Bad Boys For Life (2019), here we are, reviewing this. So there’s two ways this could go for you: It can take its critical acclaim and run with it, creating a compelling and unique watch that dives into a story that, while many know about, few really explore I feel. Or it could be something you just aren’t interested in because the story just isn’t interesting to you. Both of things are true, because if the story is interesting, you will find the movie interesting, and if this isn’t something you are interested in, the movie probably won’t change your mind. Overall while I don’t think it lives up its potential, it is a very good movie.
Okay so of the few things I have to actually talk about in this fairly straightforward drama, the performances should be the first. The screenplay is strong but not perfect, however even when I think the writing fails, both Price and Hopkins more than accommodate. Without ever feeling dislikable for overplaying their own characters’ emotions, both leads to an incredible job subtly telling you what you need to know about the characters before they even speak, of course carrying the words just as powerfully. Of course this brings me to something I didn’t love about the movie, which is the occasional lack of depth. I really enjoyed getting to know both characters, and as occasionally fictitious as this film has to be, the interactions between then was the heart of the film. However while you get to know the characters well, the controversial issue surrounding them was left unchallenged. I wanted to know more about how a Pope can step down, the reactions people had, and even more into why Pope Benedict wanted to vacate. I understand some of the current events leading to it because I remember it, but the film glosses over some of these a bit too much for me, forcing Two Popes to simply be a character piece on one Pope.
Okay all that having been said, the film is still a compelling watch, and part of that goes to a surprisingly well-handled tone and pace. Two Popes was surprisingly funny for one! I didn’t expect several little things to happen or be the way they were, but some of the best laughs I had for Oscar season came from the unexpectedly odd character interactions between the leads. On top of that, the film never drags. Sure it kinds just ends when it wraps up its character arc, but it does a solid job keeping you hooked from the start. One of the ways it does this is through equally compelling visuals. The cinematography was solid, and the framing was a highlight! It wasn’t as overt as to force you to lean forward in awe, but it had you not knowing you were in awe anyway, and that works for a subtle movie like this.
So like more than a few Oscar-bait movies of 2019, Two Popes flew under the radar. However if you haven’t seen it, I think it is still worth watching. Aside from the visual quality of the film that stays sharp, the overall charm in the humor and heart of the characters is enough to show that this film is more than it seems. The idea of looking beneath the surface here is something that can apply to both the film and its titular Popes, as the writing takes a solid look at the two men and their own ideologies during one of the most controversial moments in recent Catholicism. And while the film doesn’t exactly get into why it is so controversial, the performances from Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins go a long way to keep the film captivating anyway. Again, if you just aren’t interested in the story, it’s probably not going to be the most interesting movie. However for anyone even a little curious, I’d recommend it. 7/10.
So The Two Popes? Did you see it? What did you think? And what do you think was the biggest Oscar snub for Best Picture this year? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know!
-review by Ryan Prince