If you don’t know what THE TWO POPES is, I don’t blame ya. If you do know what this movie is and what it is about, my guess is that you are either extremely religious or knew about the shake up of Popes at the Vatican back in 2013 (me? no fuckin’ clue). In Layman’s Terms for everyone to understand: it is pure Oscar bait, specifically for Best Picture and a Best Actor nod for co-star Jonathan Pryce. For me, the movie is a one and done. I watch it once, I think it is decent, but will never have any desire to watch it again. Not because it isn’t a good film or is boring or that I’m not at all religious or anything. I just got all out of it that I could in this one viewing and don’t think another would benefit me down the line. The main reason to watch this is not for Anthony Hopkins performance, but for Jonathan Pryce, a more background character film actor, who was that main religious honcho on Game of Thrones a couple of seasons ago…I know him more as the Bond villain from Tomorrow Never Dies and the guy that played Glenn Close’s husband in last year’s The Wife. It is a pure performance film, as the way it is shot at times can make you woozy, as there was way too much shaky cam. Come for the performances, stay for them and the story, and try and tolerate the messy camera work.
The whole film is conversations between Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, where Bergoglio is going to see Benedict to ask for a early retirement, and Benedict wants to tell Bergoglio something he is about to do that could shake up the whole foundation of the Church. The two express their different ways of looking at service to God and his people but in their talks with each other they are able to put aside their differences and warm up to each others beliefs. Then, several times throughout the conversations, we get flashbacks of Bergoglio’s earlier years and the guilt he has over not doing enough to prevent the deaths of close ones during the time known as the “Dirty War” and the rest of his time as a collaborator with the Argentine military dictatorship and the consequences some of his inaction caused. Anthony Hopkins is basically just Anthony Hopkins in this. All of his mannerisms are there, as he’s just going through the motions collecting his paycheck. His best phoned in performance since Transformers The Last Knight. But Jonathan Pryce is the performance to watch. He’s incredible here, his emotions showing deeper meaning to everything his character has to say.
It’s just two hours of conversations, a couple of laughs, and two people with differences that are able to set them aside and get along. With a couple of flashbacks to explain why one of them wants to retire early, and news reports of why the other one is a controversial figure at that moment. I think the more religious **coughCatholicspecificallycough** you are the more you will get out of this film. The only thing that confuses me is the amount of shaky cam that is in the film. It is unneeded, as the cinematography is bright and clear enough to give off the giant majesty of the Vatican, Italy, and the other cities of Rome. It’s like director Fernando Meirelles wanted to add something so it wouldn’t just be a complete “point and shoot” affair. I just don’t see how he didn’t just his cinematographer to make the movie rise above that mediocrity. The shaky came brought it back to mediocrity. Anyway, if you are a Oscar hound like I am, this is required viewing, and if you are Catholic and really religious, you might want to check this out and will definitely get more out of it than I did. Half way decent one time watch is all it is, and it wouldn’t bother me at all of Pryce won Best Actor in February.