An agnostic seminary student travels to Rome to study the rites of
exorcism and befriends an eccentric priest who sees potential in him.
The Rite (2011)
Directed by Mikael Håfström
Written by Michael Petroni
Starring Colin O'Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds,
Alice Braga, Rutger Hauer, Toby Jones, Marta Gastini
Based on the book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist
by Matt Baglio
The Rite was originally billed as a supernatural horror film, which is likely why it never got any attention back in January 2011. However, if you view it as a drama, the film is remarkably original and worth a watch. The film treats faith, demons, and exorcisms as neither fact or fiction. Instead, The Rite leaves it up to the audience to decide what they believe in. The film is all about the nature of faith and how it affects our lives, using exorcism as a storytelling device while we follow agnostic Michael (Colin O'Donoghue) while he struggles to find his own faith.
Colin O'Donoghue gives a strong lead performance alongside an absolute scene-stealing Anthony Hopkins. Together, they try to save people from demon possession, though in reality they may just be suffering from psychotic breaks. The exorcism scenes are done very well, keeping enough in the dark while also showing the audience enough to keep us interested. By the film's end, we aren't entirely sure whether the possessions were genuine, though we do lean towards the supernatural side. Regardless, I was impressed by the film's restraint. So many demon possession films try so hard to be the next Exorcist that they just end up lacking in originality.
The Rite establishes a good dramatic foundation on which to build a decent horror film, but my biggest problem with it is that it never goes the extra mile. The film doesn't have a strong story, instead relying solely on characters. The climax is memorable, but only because of Anthony Hopkins's great performance. While I don't think The Rite is a bad movie, it's easy to see why it fell off the radar. The whole thing feels like the first act to a movie that was never made.