Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce turn in some of their finest work in recent years in the ripped from the headlines dramatization, The Two Popes. Hopkins and Pryce star as, respectively, Cardinal Bergoglio and Pope Benedict, in the film. Their performances are, in fact, so engrossing that it’s a bit jarring when the footage of their real life counterparts turn up at the end we’re reminded that these are just two fine actors doing what they do best. They prove to be excellent choices for the roles and it’s nice to see them so vibrant in the film.

Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes

The film seizes on a pivotal moment in 2012 that’s likely to be fairly well remembered in some viewers’ minds but interesting nonetheless. The story picks up with Benedict being freshly minted as the new pope and Bergoglio seeking permission from Benedict to retire. In the interim the two men exchange ideas and realize they are miles apart in their thinking in many areas, particularly in the realm of social issues. Benedict doesn’t really want Bergoglio to hang it up, so to speak, but the Cardinal feels as if he’s at the end of his mission. Flashbacks illuminate some of the reasons why Bergoglio has come to that place in life where he has arrived. And, of course, Benedict has his own reasons as to why he doesn’t want the Cardinal to leave which are quietly revealed.

The Two Popes is well directed by Fernando Meirelles, probably best known for the well regarded, City of God. Meirelles doesn’t seem like a logical choice for the material but he’s proves adept at painting a portrait of two men at a critical time in the Catholic church and it ultimately works in the film’s favor.

The Two Popes is available on Netflix.

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