Monday, December 30, 2019

The Two Popes

Movie Name: The Two Popes
Year of Release: 2019
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin, Cristina Banegas, Maria Ucedo, Renato Scarpa, Sidney Cole, Federico Torre, German de Silva
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Director Fernando Meirelles has had a somewhat discrete career since his last feature length directorial effort, "360", which also featured Anthony Hopkins, but which was met with poor reviews (it came out in 2011). Since then his work has been primarily in television, until this recent project, which has once again placed him on Awards contention. The film follows the story of how Cardinal Ratzinger is elected the new Pope, following the death of Pope John Paul II. The story also focuses on Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, and how he was originally in contention for the title, alongside Ratzinger, and how following Pope Benedict's abdication, he is then chosen to continue the Papal duties. The story also focuses on Bergoglio's path to Church (how he became a Jesuit), and how the political instability and tyranny of the Argentinian government, had a profound effect on his conduct and his view of the world. 
"The Two Popes" functions as a great showcase for the work of two wonderful actors, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. The film bears the aesthetic that has become somewhat a trademark with Fernando Meirelles's best work: the editing and interesting camera angles, married with a documentary approach/perspective, which once again produces some rewarding results. The results are a mix bag, with the largely positive ones being the insight that is given to the relationship between these two men with very different backgrounds, while the less positive ones being the somewhat formulaic views of the background of Cardinal Bergoglio, specifically his role while the dictatorial regime was in Argentina in the 70s. The film also fails on really providing some insight into what these men consider faith - it's not really the core focus of the film, and unlike Lars Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves", it never convincingly captures what is that these two men have as core beliefs. For a film that is centered around two heads of a major Religion, it fails to humanize them aside from some clichés, and from depicting some mundane habits they have. It's not sufficiently heartfelt to dive into what faith is about, and it's not sufficiently engaging to actually create some interest into the process of how a Pope becomes one (career wise and even the process by which they are chosen). It's a good showcase for two actors, for a great score from Bryce Dessner and the always great cinematography from César Charlone. Fernando Meirelles is immensely talented, he just needs to find material that marries his strong point of view and interests. This simply isn't it.