The Two Popes (2019) – Review

The Two Popes plays in select theaters beginning November 27, and is available to stream on Netflix on December 20.

By Elazar Abrahams

I went into The Two Popes with low expectations. One, because I’m a religious jew who doesn’t know much about the workings of the Catholic church and the system surrounding the pontiff. Two, because this film is written by the same scribe who penned the screenplay for Rhe Darkest Hour and bohemian rhapsody, which are both movies I did not enjoy. To my surprise, I walked out of the screening room impressed.

The Two Popes follows the quasi-friendship between Pope Benedict and the future Pope Francis. It is a quiet meditation on old vs new and the struggle between religious conservatism and pushing the church in a progressive direction. I felt the filmmakers did a good job of sympathizing with pope benedict as a character, even if he’s painted as having done some pretty wicked things. With Pope Francis, I actually would have appreciated some more nuance. The movie paints Francis as this near-perfect savior who is going to save Christianity by being an outspoken liberal, even though he’s not that radical. It is then strange when late in the runtime, viewers are shown the mistakes he made in the past, but he remains the “good guy” meddling with Benedict.

What really elevates an already great script are the two leading performances. Anthony Hopkins plays Pope Benedict as an overbearing and tragic figure to perfection. Jonathan Pryce is phenomenal as Pope Francis, a man who does not want to lead and is, therefore, the perfect person to do so. It doesn’t hurt that both actors are dead ringers for the men they are portraying.

Lastly, while The Two Popes is undoubtedly a serious affair, it’s pretty funny at the same time. There is an Odd Couple-like quality to the pair’s relationship, and the men are awfully quippy. Stay steated for a hilarious credits scene – one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

I give The Two Popes an A-.