The Film Stage blog
November 26, 2019
By Jordan Raup
Do the principles of God change with the shifting tides of culture? This theological question is at the heart of The Two Popes. As unanswerable as the question may be, it presents an engaging-if-scattered platform for the spiritual sparring that Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins devour. Directed by Fernando Meirelles with the kind of hyperactivity that worked so well in his kinetic breakthrough City of God, that trait is unfortunately not helped here with Anthony McCarten’s script, which attempts to pack a life’s worth of history in between a few conversations.
The life at the center of the story–which takes place over many decades, but mostly 2012–is that of Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pryce), who is not shy about his desire for the Catholic Church to change their stodgy, conservative ways. As the planet is being destroyed and the inequality gap continues to grow, the world built walls–figuratively and literally–and fought over hot-button issues rather than getting to the humanitarian heart at the center of Christianity. In order to attract a base of followers that continues to dwindle, Bergoglio believes the only path forward is through change. Pope Benedict XVI (Hopkins), the man of the highest cloth, diverges in this opinion with his traditional views, which leads to heated quarrels about dogma and the future of the Catholic Church when Bergoglio is invited to visit. As written in recent history, the Pope would eventually be the first one to resign in centuries, handing over the papacy to Bergoglio, who would become Pope Francis.
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