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Genius Products presents
Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II (2005)

"I want to say to you, never, ever give up on hope."
- Pope John Paul II (Thomas Kretschmann)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: April 26, 2006

Stars: Thomas Kretschmann
Other Stars: Michael Klesic, Joaquim de Almeida, Bruno Ganz, Petar Goranov, Jaspar Harris, Survila Ignas, Salkauskaite Inga, Dainius Kazlauskas, Ignatavicius Paulius
Director: Jeff Bleckner

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:27m:42s
Release Date: April 25, 2006
UPC: 796019788397
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C CC+B D-

DVD Review

Never to ignore a major event, television is pretty much rushing the most recent news story into a made-for-TV movie production while correspondents are still getting the facts. Often the turn around is so fast that the information used to write the script is usually inaccurate and by the time the movie airs it's already historically irrelevant. Happily, this is not the case with Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II. Instead, the problems with this drama are that its acting and writing are superficial.

Clocking in at only 88 minutes, there's no way for this movie to accurately present the life of such a pivotal historical figure, one of the great lives of the past 100 years. Beginning with John Paul II's visit to Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, the movie is largely told in flashback. As a young boy, Karol Wojtyla (Jasper Harris) suffers the tragic loss of his mother and brother while growing up in Krakow. The years pass and he becomes an actor and playwright (now played by Thomas Kretschmann), even having an innocent romance with a Jewish girl from his acting class. Unfortunately, the dark shadow of the Third Reich is upon them and during the horror of World War II, Karol's life is once again disrupted as his friends are taken to concentration camps, his father dies, and the brilliant young man enters into the seminary in secret.

The script by Michael Hirst and Judd Parkin is too compact for its own good. Much ground is covered in the film's first act, which causes the person of Karol Wojtyla to feel more like a TV cliché than anything else. Director Jeff Bleckner is attempting to cover far too much ground for what is allotted him. The best moments in Have No Fear come shortly after Karol is ordained and begins to form his theological thought with more depth. He quickly captures the eye of Cardinal Wyszynski (Bruno Ganz) and is appointed bishop in occupied Poland at the height of the Cold War. These are great moments of formation for the man who would be pope, but Bleckner rushes through them too quickly so he can cover the well known ground of John Paul II's pontificate. Everything from his dealings with world leaders to his near death at an assassin's gun is covered. But none of it resonates. The life of John Paul II is near and dear to me, and yet I felt exceptionally cold to the whole film.

Thomas Kretschmann is a weak choice as the late pontiff, being too old to play the fresh-faced priest and too young to play the aging Vicar of Christ. His performance is sincere and valiant, but the script offers no opportunities to reach into the character. The humor and charm of John Paul is lacking, replaced by little more than images of Kretschmann imitating Parkinson's disease. Bruno Ganz is quite memorable as Cardinal Wyszynski, giving an excellent presence in a supporting cast that otherwise is forgettable.

Perhaps I'm being unfair, since Have No Fear: The Life of John Paul II is a picture with little resources. It seems like everybody involved here is biting off more than they can chew. The makers should have accepted their limitations and focused more specifically on a given chapter in the man's life. Instead, they try to make a big screen epic without the resources and time. Part of me is discouraged by this movie, because it is yet another attempt to capture John Paul II on film that fails. However, I'm going to take a lesson from the Holy Father and let hope govern me. Maybe Bleckner and Kretschmann have laid the groundwork for a Hollywood silver screen affair that will do John Paul justice.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer doesn't hide the fact that the movie was shot on video. The picture has an artificial look and is quite flat. Colors and detail are average, but this seems to be more a result of the source material than anything else.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is quite enjoyable, with the film's musical score occupying the rear channels quite effectively. Sound separation and directionality opens up the track, but never distracts. This isn't an especially dynamic mix, though, and is front heavy. I'm not saying that as a complaint, merely an observation. Dialogue is always clear and the whole mix is well balanced. A Spanish Dolby Stereo track is also available.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There is no supplemental material for this release.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Have No Fear: The Life of John Paul II tries for too much and winds up with very little. This DVD is a barren release, so consider a rental before purchasing it.

 


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