Michael is an American priest with a crisis of faith and as such, decides to leave the parish. Because his teacher sees promise in him, he decides to ignore Michael’s request and instead suggests he travel to Italy where the Vatican has begun a new course in the training of exorcists. It is here that Michael meets the eccentric Father Lucas and his eyes are finally opened.
First and foremost when it comes right down to it you either like films with deep religious overtones or you don’t, personally I do. Now there’s yet another distinction to be made here as there’s movies about the Devil and then there’s movies about exorcisms. The latter seems to have flourished quite a bit since the original EXORCIST film (for better or worse) and right off the bat these films are instantly taken down a notch because of it. The shock value of having people speak in tongues, limbs hyper extending in all directions and spewing up God knows what, isn’t exactly new territory so filmmakers, writers and actors need to keep it fresh. THE RITE isn’t as fresh as say, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE but it does try.
I like the story and of course the promise that it’s based on true events (isn’t everything these days, supposedly) but what stands out most for me is the fact that a priest is questioning both the scientific and the psychological idea of possession and religion in general. Possession has to be a rough story to sell so it’s cool to see someone call it out for a change. Michael’s relationship with his Dad is creepy as is the fact that he’s a mortician (growing up around dead bodies can’t be healthy for the mind). One of my sister’s best friend’s Dads was a Mortician and he worked out of their basement, meaning that there was a dead body in their basement at any given time. I never once set foot in their house, hell, my skin started to crawl every time we pulled into her driveway.
What ultimately sells this film is Anthony Hopkins; the man’s a character actor and gives one hell of a performance as a veteran exorcist filled with regret. I really wish the trailers didn’t expose the fact that he gets possessed but then again, I suppose that IS the selling point here. I will say that it didn’t happen nearly as fast I thought it would but every moment Hopkins is on screen is gold. Something about him changed when he took on the role of Hannibal Lector (something for the better as far as I’m concerned) and now the man just emanates with raw evil when he needs to. I’m so very looking forward to seeing him tackle the role of Odin this summer.
THE RITE is a dark retelling of a familiar tale but done so in a smart manner and with brilliant acting. There are a ton of visceral effects here that play with the mind as they haunt the characters on screen. The mule looked particularly evil and there’s a thing with Michael’s Dad (you’ll know when it happens) that’s particularly freaky. I will admit to their being somewhat of a pacing issue through the middle (like I said, it took far too long to get to the point) but the film does quickly redeem itself once the ball starts rolling with Father Lucas. I wouldn’t say you need to rush out and see this film tomorrow but it’s definitely worth a look when you get a chance.