Movie Review: The Rite – The 21st Century Answer to the Film The Exorcist

3 Feb
2011

The Rite is the 21st century answer to the film The Exorcist. Playing upon themes of god, the devil and religious beliefs, it steps much further into the realm of faith than The Exorcist did, with less scares.

Directed by Mikael Håfström, The Rite, which is inspired by true events, stars Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas Trevant whose unexpected techniques in performing exorcisms, draws Michael Kovak, (played by Colin O’Donoghue, last seen in the Tudors), into a world he’s had little belief in. The world of faith.

Michael Kovak is the son of a mortician. (Yes, Michael the Archangel. How can we miss that one?) Throughout his life he has battled with faith. Instead of joining his father (played by Rutger Hauer) in the embalming-the-dead business, he decides to go away to seminary school. As his courses are winding down to an end, his plan is to finish but not become a priest. This doesn’t go over too well with Father Mathew (Toby Jones), a teacher at the seminary school who sees much potential in Michael. With a little push and the ultimatum of taking away his scholarship, forcing him to pay for all his schooling, Michael ships off to Vatican City in Rome to learn about exorcisms.

When Michael visits Father Lucas, and witnesses a ‘supposed’ exorcism for the first time, he is none too impressed. As a psychology major, he believes it all comes from within the afflicted and has nothing to do with the devil.

Little by little the armor of disbelief that Michael wears is chipped away by everything he witnesses and his faith is ultimately put to the test in ways he’s never imagined.

Angeline (Alice Braga), a journalist seeking answers about the supernatural, meets Michael in class and her supporting role (literally) plays out towards the end of the film, as she acts as Michael’s crutch, when all he wants to do is fall.

There are many creepy moments in The Rite, via hallucinations and flashbacks that haunt Michael. It is a psychological thriller that plays upon what we all have tried to figure out our entire lives. Is there truth in ‘believing’? Does faith really have an impact?  Are there demons?

The Vatican did in fact appoint exorcists around the globe. In the fall of 2004 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a letter to the various Catholic dioceses around the world, starting with those in America, asking each bishop to appoint an official exorcist. Many of these bishops didn’t believe in the need.

When the end credits roll, you might find yourself wondering about it yourself. In what respect depends on your upbringing. Those who are taught about God and the Devil in the faith of Catholicism, will probably take away a different perspective on this film, than say someone who is Jewish. Jews believe in Satan but not in the Devil. (Yea, I know it’s confusing.)

For those who are atheist, they might have a hard time believing, just like Michael did. Or one can think of the devil in a spiritual term, in which case it’s not the actual Devil himself, but a bad spirit. In this regard The Rite is an interesting film. It sparks thought. Which is more than I can say for half the supernatural films I’ve seen. Not only does it bring up religion and faith, but also the vein of family values, ethics, and life struggle lend its fair share of weight to the overall story. Everyone no matter their religious faith can relate to these issues.

On the other hand, I did have qualms with the fact that Anthony Hopkins turned into every other role he’s played since Hannibal Lecter. You’ll see what I mean. Not to say he wasn’t fantastic in his portrayal, he was. But we’ve all seen him act this way before. I prefer not to be reminded of his other roles while watching a film. However, his characters dialogue of biting wit throughout the film did make up for it.

Don’t be disappointed if you start realizing exactly what will happen next in the last 20 odd minutes of the film, which is the point when it becomes too easy to figure out. Maybe this is why the last 20 minutes felt like an eternity.

All in all, The Rite can be filed up there with movies-to-see-if-you-like-films-about-supernatural-entities, but it cannot take a place on the top shelf next to the Exorcist by any means.

7/10 stars

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