“The Rite” is about a young American man, Michael Kovak (portrayed by Colin O’Donoghue) who chooses reluctantly to go to seminary. Because of his family history, it’s either that or become a mortician like his father. Later, after four years of school, he tries to walk away from the priesthood because he has doubts about his faith. Then he is asked to go to Rome for two months to participate in the unorthodox teachings regarding exorcism. While there, he meets Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins). Michael is skeptical about the exorcism–and questions the lines between science, psychology and religious belief–even after witnessing the rituals first hand. He watches Father Lucas work to expel a demon from a young pregnant girl, and also from a young boy who claims that a demon is abusing him.
The demonic events grow more strange for Michael, making it difficult for him to deny what is happening in front of him. Then it seems Father Lucas himself may have become possessed. The question is, will Michael reaffirm his belief in God and do what is called of him? Or will he remain agnostic? Along the way, Michael also meets a reporter (played by Alice Braga) who is writing a story about exorcism.
“The Rite” was inspired by true events and based on a book by Matt Baglio. Additional supporting performances are provided by Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones and Rutger Hauer. The film was directed by Mikael Hafstrom (who previously directed “Derailed,” “1408,” and the Swedish film “Evil.”)
Sir Anthony Hopkins is a distinguished and exceptional actor, but sadly “The Rite” is beneath him. That said, I don’t begrudge his need to work and make a living or to have a little fun. The movie is at its best before things get too crazy and we watch Hopkins as the elderly Father Lucas. He acts wonderfully and brings a likeable humanity to the role. By the end though, Hopkins is channeling all of the accents he can muster into a single mashed-up performance. I even caught glimpses of Hannibal Lecter in there somewhere.
Worse is O’Donoghue as Michael. O’Donoghue has literally the same expression on his face in every single scene of the film. When he questions his faith, there’s a look. When he witnesses an exorcism, the same look. When he dreams of a demonic mule with red eyes, the same look. When he comes home to hundreds of frogs in his apartment, the same look. His performance drags the film down, almost kills it. Sure brooding adds to the atmosphere of doubt and darkness. But emotion (any emotion) always trumps the absence of emotion, even in a moody film like this one.
One aspect of “The Rite” I loved is, while most of the dialogue is in english, many scenes are in italian with english subtitles, which makes the movie feel richer. In the end though, there’s not much inspiration in this film. “The Rite” will hold your attention and provide a few thrills. But there are better made movies on the subject.
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
2011, Rated PG-13, 112 minutes, Drama, Horror, Thriller