There’s so much wackiness inherent to the title The Two Popes—Mitre switching! Vatican guard pranks! Burying allegations against disgraced priests together in St. Peter’s backyard!—that it’s actually a little disappointing to find out that Fernando Meirelles’ new Netflix movie of that name is mostly just about two guys talking to each other. Admittedly, the two senior citizens in question are Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce—two gifted actors who, between them, have rarely, if ever, turned down a tasty bit of scenery on which to chew—and they’re playing two of the major religious and political leaders of the last 20 years, Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, respectively. But still: The lack of Popemobile drag races can’t help but disappoint.
That being said, Meirelles’ movie pulled in strong reviews at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this year, and it’s not hard to see why: Hopkins has always had a gift for giving ostensibly uncharismatic figures a certain irresistible twinkle, while Pryce embodies a (slightly) younger take on Vatican policy, slowly realizing that he may be being groomed to take over the office from a man who doesn’t actually think much of his policies. The film’s premise promises an intimate (if obviously fictionalized) portrait of two extremely powerful men whose status normally precludes seeing them as anything but ritualistic representations of Vatican might; on December 20th, we’ll get to find out whether it keeps that particular faith.