Review: The Two Popes (12A)

Written by Film

Antony Hopkins and Jonathon Pryce give convincing performances as Popes Benedict XVI and Francis respectively in this biopic about the succession of Francis to the Papacy.

The real action and some of the best dialogue of this film came in their theological debates. Benedict was a conservative Pope with total belief in the unchanging nature of God and the Church, whereas Francis was a keen reformer, sure that the Church must modernise in order to keep up with the world.  

The film does not shy away from challenging two figures that are believed by millions to be infallible. Benedict is portrayed as a power-hungry, pompous Pope and his involvement in money laundering and the child sex abuse cover up is examined. Francis does not get off lightly either, as his troubled past in dictatorship- era Argentina is scrutinised. He is shown to have collaborated with the junta in an attempt to protect the faith. These flash backs are interesting and provide more context for how Francis came to be the leader that he is, but ultimately become too long winded and deflect from the main plot of the film – the struggle between two men of God to find common ground.

The first thing they both seem able to agree on is that neither can get to sleep if they drink coffee late at night. But coffee is high in caffeine, so this isn’t exactly a major breakthrough. However, over the course of the film which focuses on a few days and glosses over years, we see these two strong minded men grow closer to each other in understanding. A meeting in an amazing recreation of the Sistine Chapel (the Vatican does not allow fictional films to be shot in the Chapel) brings the humanity out of Benedict who up until this point appeared as a grumpy relic. When his emotions come to the surface it is apparent that Hopkins was the perfect casting choice.

While not a film for everyone, The Two Popes tells a fascinating story about the nature of religion and the similarities that can be found in the most contrasting of people.  

Rating 3/5

Last modified: 12th December 2019

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