Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review of Pope John Paul II (2005)

Movie Review
by Steven D. Greydanus
Decent Films Guide
Pope John Paul II is the first — so far the only — dramatic presentation to do anything like justice to the life and reign of the 20th century’s most popular pope. . . .

Reverent, respectful, well acted and well-paced, Pope John Paul II does about as good a job at covering both halves of its subject’s life as could be hoped for in a TV movie. The miniseries neatly splits its two nights between the pre-election Karol Wojtyla and the reign of Pope John Paul II, with Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) playing Wojtyla from his youth to the 1978 conclave and Jon Voight (Holes) playing John Paul II from the conclave to his 2005 death.

Both actors do a remarkably good job at evoking the speech, style and physical presence of this most media-exposed of popes. Elwes particularly excels at projecting Wojtyla’s formidable intellect and passion, and Voight is especially good at realizing the Holy Father’s pastoral spirit and iron resolve. Both actors effectively tackle the physicality of the role, Elwes energetic and athletic as the younger Wojtyla and Voight giving an impressively controlled performance from the vigor of the early years of the papacy through the slow decline to that painful final public appearance when all the pope’s immense willpower could not coax speech from his throat. . . .

The screenplay, credited to director John Kent Harrison and three other writers, makes good choices in delineates the issues and experiences that defined Wojtyla’s early adulthood: his university life interrupted by the Nazi decapitation of Polish institutions; the theory of cultural resistance behind his participation in the Rhapsodic Theater; his rock-blasting work in the quarries, which kept him from being deported but also instilled in him a lifelong appreciation for the dignity of manual labor. . . .

Pope John Paul II is a fitting tribute to a great papacy, well researched and well mounted, benefiting substantially from the active cooperation of Vatican insiders, authentic locations in Poland and Rome, and a solid supporting cast.
(read the entire review here)

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