The Rite is the best Exorcism film to have been released in a long time. Anthony Hopkins is always compelling and a joy to watch – it’s just a shame he wasn’t in this film for longer.
The Rite is just shy of two hours long and it’s main focus is on a young man, Michael Kovak, who is (somewhat reluctantly) studying to be a priest. Uncertain of his beliefs, Michael tries to resign from seminary school – however, seeing his potential, his tutor suggests he attends a course on Exorcism in Vatican City.
Arriving in Rome and beginning the lecture, Michael soon speaks up about the discrepancies he can see between logic and faith. He befriends a fellow student, a journalist trying to uncover the truth about demonic possessions. The priest running the lecture, Father Xavier, struggles with Michaels’ criticisms and suggests he pay a visit to elderly priest, Father Lucas Trevant – played by Hopkins.
Kovak is thrust immediately into witnessing Father Lucas performing an exorcism on a young, pregnant girl and as he is drawn into the bizarre and frightening world of possessions, he begins to doubt it’s existence even more until the climax of the film which leads him, somewhat inevitably, to find his faith.
It’s nice to see the lead character is somewhat of an Atheist and questions the things he encounters – a rarity in most films, especially ones involving the Catholic Church. The Rite is a little generic – the demon voices, contorted bodies and physical changes to the possessed aren’t anything new but they are handled well.
Despite the fact no exorcism film will ever be as shocking as The Exorcist – elements of which are somewhat scoffed at in The Rite with Lucas’ line, ‘What did you expect, turning heads and pea soup?’ – The Rite is intelligently written and works better without shock-value. It relies on uncomfortable plots and the menacing, but understated, character of Lucas and his dark secrets which are revealed in the final part of the film.