Review: The Rite


Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Written by:Michael Petroni
Starring: Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Ciaran Hinds, Alice Braga, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer
Released: March 10, 2011
Grade: C

During the opening credits of The Rite, we are told that this story is “inspired by actual events”.  These words resulted in laughter at tonight’s preview screening.  We’ve seen the poster and we’ve seen the trailer.  It’s a little hard to believe that there’s much truth in this movie.  Call me a realist.  Call me a sceptic.  Just don’t call me an exorcist.

The central figure in this snooze-fest is a young trainee priest named Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue).  He originally entered the seminary to avoid following in his father’s footsteps as a mortician.  After four years of study and on the verge of becoming a full-time priest, he finds himself with cold feet.  Is this really something he wants to do for the rest of his life?

In an attempt to keep him within the priesthood, his superior sends him to the Vatican for two months as part of "exorcism school".  The pupils sit in their lecture theatre and take notes while the teacher flips through a slideshow presentation show how to identify demonic people.  I don’t remember this subject being offered while I was at university.

Michael doesn’t believe in any of it and so he is told to spend time with one of the world’s most experienced exorcists, Father Lucas (Hopkins).  Lo and behold, Michael starts coming around.  There seems to be no other explanation for the crazy stuff he is now witnessing.

I am tired of exorcist movies.  They’ve been done to death (literally in some cases).  They all follow the same premise in that there’s a doubter who eventually realises this stuff is real.  Unless you can find some way to spice up the movie (through strong performances or an original plot twist), it’s going to be very hard to keep an audiences’ attention.

Clearly, no one got my memo.  The filmmakers have gone with a stock-standard mould that offers nothing new.  If there was a surprise… it was just how boring these characters were.  Colin O’Donoghue trudges around with an expressionless face.  Anthony Hopkins looks even more disinterested than he did in last year’s The Wolfman.  There are a range of subplots involving some familiar names (Rutger Hauer, Ciaran Hinds, Alice Braga) but none are sufficiently developed.

If my review inspires you to give this film a miss, then congratulations.  You’ve done “the rite” thing.