Fernando Meirelles‘ “The Two Popes” chronicles the efforts of the conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and the liberal Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) to find common ground and forge a new path for the Catholic Church. This intriguing and entertaining story of two men with different ideologies is a showcase for the two veteran actors. It is a delight to see these titans of British acting go head to head and share the screen together in this film, which Netflix will release in theaters on Nov. 27, in advance of streaming starting on Dec. 20
While Hopkins is given top billing (probbly because he is the bigger name thanks to his Oscar win and three further nominations) this is very much Pryce’s picture. It tells the story of Francis from his days as a young priest and rise to cardinal in war-torn Argentina to his election as pontiff. The actor captures the charisma of the future pope and nails his accented English. Pryce is certainly overdue for his first Oscar nomination. His supporting role in “The Wife” last year opposite Glenn Close, raised his profile, and this film is the capper to a long career.
Hopkins portrays the dogmatic Benedict. The actor earned Oscar nominations for his nuanced portrayals of two other real-life leaders: Richard Nixon in “Nixon” and John Quincy Adams in”Amistad.” His performance in “The Two Popes” is studied and careful. We see Benedict age by the subtle shifts of the actor in his walk, the positioning of his arms, and his more laboured movements. That 1998 bid for “Amistad” was Hopkins last to date. A return here to the Supporting Actor race would be an overdue recognition for this industry veteran.
Screenwriter Anthony McCarten is a three-time Oscar nominee. He contended in both Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture for 2014’s “The Theory of Everything” and again as a producer of 2018’s “Darkest Hour.” Both those films won their leading men Oscars (Eddie Redmayne and Gary Oldman respectively) as did his most recent, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Rami Malek).
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