Slide on your Fisherman’s Ring, drape your pallium over your shoulders, and place your white zuchetto atop your head: it’s time for The Two Popes! Yes, that’s right, not one, but two popes – climbing into a gilded cage for a full-blown papal smackdown! Two popes enter, one pope leaves. In this corner, we have Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins), the stodgy old school pope. And in this corner stands Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce), the far more modern Holy Father with controversial ideas.
In the long history of the Catholic Church, most popes tend to stay pope until they die. But that’s not what happened with Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joseph Ratzinger. Benedict succeeded the late Pope John Paul II in 2005, but ended up resigning in 2013. That’s when Cardinal Bergoglio became the new pope, Pope Francis. The behind-the-scenes story of just what went down is chronicled in The Two Popes, the new Netflix film that’s already played several film festivals and won rave reviews.
Described as the story of one of the “most dramatic transitions of power in the last 2,000 years,” The Two Popes begins with Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) frustrated with the direction of the church, and requesting permission to retire in 2012 from Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins). “Instead, facing scandal and self-doubt, the introspective Pope Benedict summons his harshest critic and future successor to Rome to reveal a secret that would shake the foundations of the Catholic Church. Behind Vatican walls, a struggle commences between both tradition and progress, guilt and forgiveness, as these two very different men confront elements from their pasts in order to find common ground and forge a future for a billion followers around the world.”
Fernando Meirelles directs the film, which is set for a limited theatrical release on November 27 before arriving on Netflix December 20. It’s one of several titles Netflix hopes catches awards season attention, alongside Marriage Story and The Irishman.