Review by Dan Skip Allen
In a world devoid of love, compassion and caring, the Holy Seat is a place that shares its love of God and Jesus. Without a world that embraces them, they are lost. When Pope John Paul II passed away that they had to replace him with another, Cardinal Ratzinger (Anthony Hopkins). He inherits a pulpit in turmoil. The world as a whole doesn't believe in the church anymore. When a scandal is detected within his cabinet this makes matters worse for him, causing him to request the audience of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), his harshest critic, to come visit him in Rome. Here these two men would try to build a bridge to form a better understanding of each other and the world as a whole.
Flashbacks will help the viewer to a better understanding of Bergoglio's past and why he believes what he does. He is a complicated man at best. His past helps him to understand Ratzinger and his pain that much more. They are involved in a conversation that will help forge a new beginning for the church and its billion followers. This film is based on real events, so stock footage of news broadcasts help to fill in the gaps of the story. They are very effective in that regard. The pulse of the world around the pulpit can be an eye opening experience for the man sitting in the chair of St. Peter, and Ratzinger is affected in this way.
Fernando Mierelles seemed to be granted full access of the Vatican for the film. They walked various halls and locations within the Vatican which provided visual ecstasy during their walks, helping with the authenticity of the film and its characters. The settings, including Ratzinger's summer house, were all beautiful to behold. All of these lavish things Popes get thrust upon them aren't exactly what they signed up for when they became priests years before. They just have to be seen to be a king among men of a following of a billion. They have to look the part. Mierelles creates that world these men live in perfectly to an extent that anyone would be envious of it.
Finding two men to portray the leads in this film couldn't have been an easy task for Mierelles. Even though the two actors are distinctively different from one another, they had to interact quite a bit throughout the film. They needed to have a good chemistry with one another, and Hopkins and Pryce have just that. They play a cat and mouse gave with words, bickering and bantering with each other. This is worth the price of admission alone. These two great actors go back and forth, each gaining and losing ground within this philosophical conversation about the church and its people.
The Two Popes is an entertaining film that asks a lot of questions and answers some of them. This fantastic two-hander gives viewers a reason to rethink their position on religion, the church, and the man at the top. Netflix has made strategic decision to go away from old and established IP's for new and original films and series. This strategy has worked to perfection. Films like The Irishman, Marriage Story, and The Two Popes have given audiences new and distinctive visions from groundbreaking filmmakers. The Two Popes is a vision only Mierelles could create and he does a great job with it.
The Two Popes is now streaming on Netflix.