The Two Popes
Time Out says
Like the Vatican's answer to I Love You, Man, this sprightly based-on-real-life drama stars Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in a papal friendship.
This entertaining odd-couple bromance, about two men in the running to be the Catholic pope, hits the heights when it just lets its leads, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, lob dialogue back and forth like two tennis greats. Hopkins’s German Pope Benedict XVI, sly but oddly touching behind his crusty exterior, slathers on the topspin; Pryce’s Argentinian Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis), guileless, direct and blessed with the common touch, smacks it back across the net. It’s thrilling stuff, with director Fernando Meirelles’s camera close at hand to register every subtle detail.
Opening with Pope John Paul II’s death in 2005, the film is a loose dramatization of these rivals’ relationship. A clever script from Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour) balances liturgical wrangling with lighter moments. One early scene has Bergoglio plonked in front of a soccer match with a glass of wine, while the Pope cloisters himself away with a bottle of his beloved Fanta; the sparky reformer theologist and the conservative are divided by about 30 yards—and a chasm.
Meirelles injects enough visual snap to remind you that he once made City of God. If the second half gets a little sidetracked by flashbacks, another meaty Vatican scene is never too far away. Watching these two actors chewing over big issues—God, aging, loneliness, celibacy, abuse in the priesthood—under the vast ceilings of this gilded palace is a joy. You’ve seen The Crown; now watch The Mitre.
Follow Phil de Semlyen on Twitter: @PhildeSemlyen
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