Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are expertly cast in The Two Popes.
Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce are expertly cast in The Two Popes.

The Two Popes targets your head and your heart

IF YOU must watch one papal buddy movie this year, this is gonna have to be it.

There won't be another coming out before December 31. The Two Popes is just going to have to do, I'm afraid.

Don't be too crestfallen, for this true-ish story of two old Vatican bros whistling ABBA tunes, debating theology, cheering on their respective national soccer teams and rearranging the face of modern Catholicism just happens to be a ripping motion picture experience.

It is a clever film that targets both the head and the heart, and won't be missing either if its excellent lead actors Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce have any say in the matter.

Jonathan Pryce plays the future Pope Francis.
Jonathan Pryce plays the future Pope Francis.

Hopkins plays German-born Pope Benedict XVI, a remote and archly conservative leader who senses his time in the job might be coming to an end.

Enter Pryce as Argentinian Cardinal Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis), who also wants to get off the Vatican merry-go-round.

This archetypal odd couple get talking, get over their mutual suspicions and prejudices, and get about making history. And we, the viewing audience, get to eavesdrop as they do.

Structurally, the storytelling at work in The Two Popes has clear parallels to that which powered the Helen Mirren movie The Queen.

Screenwriter Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour, Bohemian Rhapsody) has imagined a series of a long and telling exchanges between Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio in 2012.

Less than twelve months after what we witness here, Benedict will have become the first Pope in over seven centuries to resign as the head of the Catholic Church.

Picture: AP
Picture: AP

Sure, these conversations obviously never happened in the lively, often humorous and sometimes unfeasibly relaxed circumstances depicted here.

Nevertheless, the intersecting spirits of understanding, compromise and healing that must have come to pass between these two very different men emerges in striking fashion.

This is all due to the expert casting of Hopkins and Pryce, each of whom address their roles with both a precision and fluidity that is only the province of elite actors such as themselves.

Pryce arguably has the easier time of it as Bergoglio, a professed man of his people who would rather walk among them than wave his hands at them from on high.

Hopkins must find the humanity in Benedict, who is the polar opposite of the man destined to replaced him. How Hopkins completes this task - almost impossible if you know anything of the man he is playing - is one of the great acting feats of 2019.

The Two Popes is now showing at the Lido Hawthorn, Classic Elsternwick and Cameo Belgrave before launching on Netflix on Friday Dec 20.

 

THE TWO POPES (M)

Director: Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener)

Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins.

Rating: ****

A pair of perfect Pontiff-icators

 

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