Watching “The Rite” was akin to opening presents on Christmas morning whose contents had already been discovered. One keeps hoping they will find something different, or at least be surprised, but alas its exactly what we thought it would be. Set in modern Rome, this thinking man’s thriller encapsulates everything we have grown to love in excorsism movies. Starring Colin O’Donoghue as Michael Kovak, Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas and Marta Gastini as Rosaria.
The film opens with scenes of Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue) as a young man practicing as a mortician with his father at his home. Proclaiming that his family are either morticians or priests he enters seminary school to earn a free college degree. Jumping four years ahead to his ordination, Michael writes a letter of resignation to his superior, Father Matthew (Toby Jones) citing his loss of faith. Father Matthew, attempting to talk Michael out his resignation presents him with the perfect way to prove his faith. Reluctantly accepting, Kovak travels to the Vatican to train as an exorcist. Realizing that Michael is skeptical about his faith, Father Xavier (Ciaran Hinds) sends Michael to Father Lucas (Hopkins), an unorthodox exorcist and self proclaimed psychologist. While training with Father Lucas, Micheal’s skepticism is tested again and again throughout various exoticism’s, with Michael holding fast to his uncertainty. Only when Michael is tested alone, with his back up against the wall is he presented with the trutth.
The real bright spot of the movie is the portrayal of Father Lucas by Anthony Hopkins. He is brilliant in his role of a darker, tormented priest. Throughout the movie it is apparent that he is really distraught by the demonic possessions which have occured around him, and is extremley passionate about his work. However, In contrast to the bland character of Michael Kovak, it is apparent who really has the practical lead in the film. Although, the plot and character development center around Kovak, Father Lucas steals the show, overpowering a timid Kovak at every turn, especially at the climactic end of the movie.
One other great aspect of the film is that although it is classified as a horror movie, it really intends to make a statement. It tackles a subject that is perceived as very controversial subject, especially in today’s world. Director Michael Hafstrom intends to make a chilling movie which comes out in the atmosphere and acting of the movie, while also having a new take on traditional exorcism movies. Through the movie he is able to relate to a lot of people who have trouble with their faith, as a lot of us do. There are many people who have a disgraced take on their religious beliefs from time to time, however this film teaches us to stay true to our faith, as it will guide us through the darkest times of our lives.
Personally I would give this film a 7/10 for its ingenuity and the acting chops of Anthony Hopkins. Although the film is slow in build up and O’Donoghue is extremely bland, “The Rite” is worth the watch, especially if you yourself have issues with your faith. The film does a good job of making itself eerie, but it also tackles a subject that is very real for some people. Hopkins does end up overshadowing many characters in the film, but maybe that was the point. Kovak is meant to have a spiritual transformation at the end, and that would not be possible without the dominance of Father Lucas throughout.
“My Mother told me I was touched by the Hand of God” – Michael Kovak