The Two Popes is a fantastic film that examines a subtle yet noticeable split within the Catholic Church. Anthony Hopkins (who plays Pope Benedict) and Johnathan Pryce (who plays Pope Francis) are perfect in their respective roles. Pope Benedict represented tradition and establishment, while Pope Francis is more of a progressive. While each was connected (as far back as the College of Cardinals which elected Benedict), they couldn’t have been more different in their respective ideologies. Writer Anthony McCarten beautifully lays this out for the audience while Director Fernando Meirelles flawlessly incorporates various bits of footage to add an element of realism to the film. The Two Popes mostly takes place during the height of the scandals which rocked the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict was dealing distention within the papacy, which didn’t sit well with Catholics across the globe. Was the church trying to hide the truth?
Pope Francis (who at the time was Cardinal Bergoglio) was seeking to retire from life in the church partly due to age but mostly due to an inability to defend the Church. The Two Popes is about finding common ground so the church could evolve. Hopkins is fantastic as Benedict and gives an incredible performance. Pryce gives the sort of performance that happens once (maybe twice in a career). His portrayal of Francis is essentially the heart of this film. Benedict wants to evolve but was too set in his ways (much like the church). The bond they form allowed Benedict that not everything is black and white.
Overall, while I fear The Two Popes might have some trouble gaining traction with award voters, Hopkins and Pryce certainly deserve serious consideration in their respective categories. Hopkins faces stiff competition for Best Supporting Actor, but any list of nominations for Best Actor that doesn’t have Pryce’s name is simply incomplete. The film is fantastic and should be seen either during its limited theatrical run or when The Two Popes hits Netflix at the end of December.