November 27, 2006

DVD Review: Pope John Paul II

The story of Pope John Paul II is a powerful and moving one. Following his death in April 20005, plans were put into motion to pay homage to his legacy in the form of a televised movie of his life. This two night mini-series was the last to air, and in the form of this DVD was the only one I have viewed. Due to my only having seen this one, I am unable to compare the various films. A fact that doesn't matter, as this was a fine production, and one that was made with full cooperation of the Vatican, giving the filmmakers unprecedented access to details of the late Pontiff's life.

Pope John Paul II begins in 1981, on the day of the Pope's attempted assasination in May of 1981 by Mehmet Ali Ağca. As he is rushed to the hospital, he loses conciousness and the film flashes back to when the Pope was known as Karol Wojtyla. The story follows Karol as his interest in acting grows, and his friendships with everyone that he met. Then World War II happens, his home country is invaded and occupied by German forces. Karol struggles to help who he can while surviving through this dark time in his life. Through it all, he is able to keep a positive outlook and discover his call to the priesthood.

He takes his vows and puts on the robes and is a great example to those in his congregation. Father Karol was a personable man, easy to speak to and fun to be around. The mini-series captures that beautifully. He rises through the ranks, becoming Cardinal in his home country of Poland, before being elected to the Chair of St. Peter in 1978, succeeding Pope John Paul II.

The series' strength is in the two leads. Cary Elwes and Jon Voight split time playing the Holy Father. Elwes plays his younger years, from 18 to when he was elected Pope when Voight takes over the role. Both of them capture the incredible charisma that Pope John Paul II possessed. He was a man who loved to smile and was able to connect with just about anybody, particularly the young.

Pope John Paul II is an epic story of a personal man. Being made with the Vatican helped director and co-writer John Kent Harrison make a movie that is as accurate a depiction as possible. One thing that they succeeded at strongly was humanizing Karol and the Pope. I always feel that many people in these high ranking positions tend to be portrayed as larger than life, or at least detached in some way. This two-parter brings a real sense of humanity to the man, a great sense of humor, easy way with those around him. It was just a joy to watch in no small part due to the contributions of Elwes and Voight (who was nominated for an Emmy).

Audio/Video. Both of these elements are finely represented here, save for a couple of effects quibbles which are no fault of the DVD transfer. The video is presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 and looks good, fine colors and brightness level. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0, and doesn't have the bells and whistles, but is a solid track.

Extras. The disk has a few extras that are worth the time, but nothing spectacular.
  • 16 Page Booklet. The DVD comes with a nice booklet containing interviews and behind the scenes information about the show.
  • Deleted Scenes. I did not watch these, so I'm not sure why or if they should have been deleted.
  • Cast Interviews. These help give a little insight into what it was like to be on the set and in costume.
  • Behind the Scenes. This gives a loo into the scope of the film, it was OK, perhaps a little dry.
  • World Premiere Footage. Footage of Pope Benedict XVI at the world premiere at the Vatican.
Bottomline. This a very good mini-series, and one that would play well to people of any faith. It may be about the head of the Catholic Church, but it does not force an ideology down your throat. It paints a portrait of a charismatic, intelligent man who left a lasting impression on the world. This is well worth seeing.



Post a Comment