Much has been made of the brilliance of the two title performers, and deservedly so. Both Hopkins and Pryce are absolutely convincing as German and Argentinean pontiffs who converse in English (conveniently for viewers) as their common language. Each actor is so fresh and alive within the personality of his "character" that I was easily persuaded they may be truer to the souls of these men than the living originals.
Not enough credit has been paid to Anthony McCarten, the writer of this complex, layered conversation. It is the kind of dialogue great men wish they had spoken. What courage and skill it takes to undertake such a verbal tour de force.
(Imagine if world leaders couldn't hire speech writers. Could Shakespeare's kings and queens really speak as well as he wrote for them?)
McCarten has written the scripts for three Oscar-winning actors; isn't it time he was recognized?
And Fernando Meirelles is the masterful director who brought all the elements together. This is a renaissance man, adept in many fields, from architecture to cinema--and organic farming as well. He has been nominated for one directing Oscar (for "City of God"), and here he shows his ability to maintain both visual interest and intellectual fascination through two hours of what amounts to an intense, extended talk.
That the movie never felt "talky" is a tribute to all four great artists.