Biography comedy Drama

The Two Popes

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Two religious figures must atone to their own sins.

“The Two Popes” is a movie that gives use remarkable performances from Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, and yet, is given a bland treatment. It’s a religious movie that cares more about the acting and sins than it does on its true story.

I’ve heard excellent things about the movie, including its Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Pryce), Best Supporting Actor (Hopkins), and Best Screenplay, but it isn’t as exhilarating as it should have been. 

Pryce plays Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio (or eventually known as Pope Francis),  who wishes to retire from the parish. He buys his ticket to Rome, just as the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI (Hopkins) invites him to Vatican City. According to God, it’s no coincidence; it’s just faith. It was meant to happen either way, as they believe. 

He tries and fails to get the pope to grant his retirement; and the reason why he called him to Vatican City is that Benedict, himself, plans to resign, and Jorge should be his replacement. The bottom line: the Cardinal can’t retire without the pope’s consent, and the pope can resign without the cardinal compromising.

These two have sins of their own they must atone to. Jorge recalls his tragic past (Juan Minujin portrays the younger version), when he lost his love Esther Ballestrino (Maria Ucedo) to Alfredo Astiz and his authorities, as she was part of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, where she and the others were tortured and thrown out of a plane. He could neither save her nor his fellow priests. And Benedict struggles to communicate with God, up to a point where he begins to lose faith in his religion. 

Both coddle one another based on their own turmoil, and eventually come to an understanding about the Catholic Church’s present and future. 

Hopkins and Pryce are both excellent, not just for their fluent abilities to speak Latin and Italian at times, but also for their poise and emotions. They don’t give outbursts, but you can tell by their dispositions, dialogue, and fears that they are religious figures with demons of their own. 

Director Fernando Meirelles (“The Constant Gardener,” “City of God”) does a fine job at guiding these two actors on the right path towards redemption, and he uses history to represent the tragedies in their lives. The movie also looks great with the archival footage and different camera scopes, painting it with such dignity. I must also give credit to cinematographer Cesar Charlone and editor Fernando Stutz. 

Those elements are perfect, but “The Two Popes” never really seems to allow Anthony McCarten’s (“Darkest Hour,” “Bohemian Rhapsody”) narrative to take risks. It’s more dull than informative, and I felt there should have been more or less out of the movie. There shouldn’t be much glamour or media in order for it to be entertaining; there should be truth and consistency. 

⭐️⭐️1/2 

Now Playing in Select Theaters

Streaming on Netflix December 20

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