Directed by: Fernando Meirelles
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, Luis Gnecco, Sidney Cole, Lisandro Fiks, Maria Ucedo
Difference in ideas but adhering to the same fate, being the pope of the Catholic Church has a host of responsibilities and garners the attention of a world leader. While exhibiting fabricated conversations The Two Popes pulls back the curtain to show absolutely nothing.
Following the election and then planned resignation of Joseph Ratzinger (Anthony Hopkins), he hosts different conversations with Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) about where the Catholic Church stands in the world and what it has in store for the future.
Due to its existence through many centuries, the Catholic Church has stood through nearly every significant moment in history. An institution with a rigid hierarchy and with over a billion followers, everything done or not done by this group brings attention. With it comes scandals and the rampant issues of pedophile priests and the cover-ups involved. A conversation worthy of having between men coming into and transitioning out of the pope position. Something this film has no real interest in, so I found myself trying to figure out the purpose of this feature film. It just so happens to be about two men speaking about the church from a surface-level perspective and to eat pizza.
The Two Popes does not lose credibility because it fails to tackle a subject I cared for, but because it has no interest in having any real conversation. Obviously, the conversations displayed in the film are fictitious, as they did not ask Popes Benedict and Francis about their discussions during the transition. Everyone knows, so it provides an opportunity to have a real conversation about the issues plaguing the Catholic Church. Instead, it wants to be a crowd-pleaser of a fabricated friendship between these two men.
Additionally, this film takes a look at the past of Pope Francis and his work as a clergyman in Argentina. A break that happened in an abrupt manner each time and provided nothing that was very engaging. His voicework required dubbing because Jonathan Pryce will not sound like an Argentinian speaking Spanish, which came off distracting. That along with the shot selection displayed some peculiar decisions by director, Fernando Meirelles. The way each shot came together made it feel like the film changed to The Office: Pope Edition. A bunch of odd decisions overall, which took away from the screenplay.
The best part of this film lies in the perfect casting of these two men. Watching Jonathan Pryce as the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones showed that he looks exactly like Pope Francis. Apparently, the casting director of this film agreed. Anthony Hopkins also a great choice to portray Pope Benedict. Putting these two legends together should have worked but they were not given much substance. Additionally, the production design is astounding. The film crew could not film in the Vatican, obviously, so they decided to recreate it. That resulted in constructing tremendous venues for these two popes to walk around and have their shallow conversations.
This film could have been much more than we received. Based on anything they say already being fiction, there came an opportunity for an honest conversation between these two men. Who were they trying to appease? Catholics I know dismiss the entire story as pure fiction and not worth watching, so what reverence were they trying to keep? Instead what came on screen is a light-hearted story about two men who definitely would not have gotten along. That last institution that needs some feel-good story of events that definitely did not happen is the Catholic Church, which has still failed to offer adequate reform for the abuses of their clergymen. But hey, at least we got to see them watch a soccer game together and drink Fanta.