The Two Popes: Tradition vs. Reform

The Two Popes. Photo credit: Peter Mountain.

The Two Popes takes a look at tradition verses reform in this look at the differences in approach from Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.

This is a film that features top-notch acting performances from both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce.  Even for a Jewish person such as myself, I didn’t feel that this was a film looking to teach us about religion.  Instead, it’s an examination of two people with a differing approach to issues within the church.  Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) is elected early on during the Cardinal Conclave.  He’s a traditionalist in how he sees the issues.  On the other side of the ring, we have Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) from Argentina.  Nevermind the fact that he’s looking at retiring from his post in 2012.  The two of them couldn’t be further apart in how they approach things.

In addition to their relationship, the film also dives into Bergoglio’s past.  We see him during his younger (Juan Minujin) days when he’s at an indecisive point and looking for a sign of what to do.  Does he get that sign?  Let’s put it this way:  there wouldn’t be a film if he didn’t!  Regardless, there’s not really much to offer in terms of their stances on certain positions let alone history.  A documentary would likely take a better examination in this regard.

Maybe it is the acting performances but Anthony McCarten’s screenplay is funnier than one would expect.  One might come into this film expecting a lot of religious dogma.  I’m sorry to inform you but while there are some aspects of that, this film isn’t one that preaches religion during the film’s entirety.  Speaking of the script, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten does take some liberties with the screenplay.  It’s nowhere near the liberties taken with last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  One such liberty takes place late in the film when the two Popes are sitting down to watch the World Cup game.  While we don’t know whether or not the moment happened in real life, it’s a fun moment in the film.

On the production values front, the film features a five-inches-larger recreation of the Sistine Chapel.  Production designer Mark Tildesley has managed to turn an Italian film studio into the historic site.  To say that this is astonishing would not be an understatement.  While it’s true that the filmmakers could have possibly filmed inside the real thing, one requires an actual set to be able to do what they do with this film.

The Two Popes is less of a religious film in as much as it is two people that come from different approaches.

DIRECTOR:  Fernando Meirelles
SCREENWRITER:  Anthony McCarten
CAST:  Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin

The Two Popes held its LA premiere during AFI Fest 2019. Netflix will open The Two Popes in theaters on November 27, 2019 and streaming on December 20, 2019. Grade: 4/5.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.