Written by: Michael Petroni
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds, Rutger Hauer
Faith in higher beings lives on a knife edge in how quickly it can shift and certain moments in life will cause the flip to be switched in multiple directions. Whether it comes from someone passing or suffering taking place a supposed omnipotent, all-loving being should not allow to exist. After experiencing what gets encountered in The Rite, it would be difficult not to believe as it results in a serviceable exorcism film.
With the only vocational options available to him consisting of priesthood or working as a mortician, Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) decides to pursue the former at seminary school despite his lack of faith. When offered the opportunity to work in exorcisms, he meets Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins) in Rome as he encounters some horrifying situations.
Going back to the success of The Exorcist, films centering on this exercise has continually intrigued many to make movies based on stories even hinting at possession. Its utilization carries such intrigue for me, personally, as I would like to think demonic possessions do not exist. Most of these occur because of a lack of understanding surrounding mental health disorders but there’s always a chance. One of those things I never want to risk having any semblance of truth because if it did, the existence of demonic possession would serve as the most terrifying thing one could experience or witness. In a way, The Rite looks at this practice as something like a job almost providing a unique perspective of this whole ordeal.
The central issue of faith occurs with the push and pull for Michael as he battles with whether or not he wants to pursue a life as a priest. With everything he sees, it would be difficult to deny the existence of the devil but the film falls on this strange spectrum of atheism and full believer that never quite actually presents a cogent argument. It comes across as some all-or-nothing situation for him where he either goes all in as a priest or lives a life not believing in God as if some middle ground does not exist. This certainly does not serve as the film’s strong suit.
From the onset of Michael’s time at the Vatican learning about exorcism, it raises some eyebrows about this feature. In his class, he had other priests as classmates, as expected, but it also included nuns and a journalist named Angeline (Alice Braga). I’m not one to try and pierce through the validity of a supposed true story unless it so happens to include nuns, who the Catholic Church would prefer to pray and stay quietly hidden away. The idea they would include them in an exorcism class to learn about the practice is quite laughable considering they would never be involved in the practice. Then throw in a female journalist tasked with reporting on the course as if they would let her do that. This is the Catholic Church we’re talking about here, people! When you put that all aside, the feature really struggles in its first act, and not until it brings in Anthony Hopkins does the feature really kick things off.
Unsurprisingly, with all of the marketing centering around Hopkins, we knew he would eventually enter the fray and play an integral part in the feature. He certainly excelled in the acting department as expected and certainly acted circles around poor Colin O’Donoghue in every scene they share. The moment he enters the story he instantly elevates the entire project, which also ushers in the actual exorcisms taking place. His character, Lucas, serves as the guide for everyone, including the audience, on the mechanics of how an exorcism works. Those sequences, particularly the final, do bring the goods everyone wants from this feature allowing Hopkins to deliver a type of performance no one has quite seen from the legendary actor.
As an exorcism film, The Rite does just enough to bring you in and entertain thanks in most part because of Anthony Hopkins understanding the assignment and delivering the goods once again. The rest of the feature ebbs and flows in its quality and lands in something anyone who’s already bought in with this genre will enjoy. It certainly will not convert others who do not, get it? *drum set sound*