One out of five stars. The only plus is the occasionally amusing interaction between the “two Popes.” Otherwise a completely intellectually dishonest inverse portrayal of Bergoglio vs Ratzinger. A bad mark on Hopkins’ legacy. An impetus to cancel your Netflix this Christmas season.
The story begins with Francis humbly trying to book his own plane flight. Flashback scenes unfold of a humble Cardinal Bergoglio doing street ministry in Argentina, saying Mass in the street like a political community gathering. There is the requisite Hollywood comparison of the future Francis to St. Francis of Assisi “rebuilding the Church.” He is then told JPII died and called to the 2005 conclave.
Next, scenes clearly paint Bergoglio as a-political vs. Ratzinger as the mastermind arranging his own election. Again, an inverse of the historic record. The acclaimed book Dictator Pope demonstrates otherwise. At one point Ratzinger tells a priest he knows of Bergoglio as a “major leader for reform,” but Bergoglio keeps acting like he is a passive figure when approached by Cardinals, whereas Ratzinger is moving about politicking with colleagues and even nods in approval at votes cast for him. Bergoglio, on the other hand, sits like a disinterested lamb on the other side of the Sistine Chapel. After Ratzinger is elected, Bergoglio just for a moment shows his true colors -- with an irritated affect he says he plans now to retire since Ratzinger was elected. For him, it was in fact a political defeat for his liberal party (St Gallen Mafia, and the attempt to elect him). At least for a moment, the film is subtly honest if not intentionally so.
It’s now 2012. Bergoglio is called to Castel Gandolfo to talk to Pope Benedict, resignation letter in hand (apparently the dramatized version of Bergoglio took eight years to follow through on his resignation plans). Enter Hopkins’ portrayal of Benedict's personality. For a famous Shakespearean actor, considered by many to be the best living actor, whose past sympathies towards traditional Christian themes you would think would keep him honest enough to portray this historic figure at least somewhat accurately, his portrayal wasn’t even remotely a reflection of Joseph Ratzinger. His German accent, mild Bavarian personality, and cerebral temperament are almost deliberately marginalized. He eats dinner alone, is anti-social, unfriendly, closed off, stiff, hard-hearted, and doctrinaire. None of those are the day-to-day Benedict-Ratzinger. Rather it is Hollywood’s personalizing of traditional Catholic teaching. Hopkins is the willing puppet for their propaganda.
It’s an act of calumny. Every humble, informal gesture of Bergoglio is like pruning his outward wool coat to make him look like an innocent sheep, while Bergoglio makes Ratzinger look in several scenes as himself the wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is reluctant to dress in bishops’ cassock, listen to the pope’s criticisms of his unorthodoxy, or even spend the evening with him listening to music. He is impatient and proud, above correction, unapologetic, and there for one aim, to get Benedict to accept his letter of resignation. The aim is obvious: make the audience think Bergoglio is the good hero and Benedict the backward tyrant.
And here is where the film turns from inaccuracy to unbridled propaganda. Benedict reveals to him his plan to resign the papacy, to not accept Bergoglio’s resignation, having had a “change of heart” saying “maybe the Church needs right now a Bergoglio.” The implication is Benedict learned that his doctrinal stance was based, as he suggests, on spiritual pride. Here is where the two start to “dialogue” with each other over pizza and jokes. In the closing scene, the future “two Popes” are enjoying an evening at the Pope Emeritus’ residence watching soccer.
Conclusion, the film is a flop. Most intelligent, informed viewers know the Obama’s and liberal political powers control Netflix. And that they have turned Netflix into a smut-filled, liberal party propaganda tool. And the next time Hopkins visits the drama class at conservative Thomas Aquinas College, it would be good for students to ask him “Sir Anthony, like, hello, what were you thinking?”