Rite, The

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: -2

Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga, Toby Jones, Rutger Hauer. Physiological thriller. Written by Michael Petroni. Directed by Mikael Hafstrom.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Inspired by true events, the story concerns seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue in his feature film début), who is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts. Though skeptical of God, the devil and things that go bump in the night, Michael becomes an apprentice to Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), an unorthodox priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms. But after experiencing an intense ceremony wherein the victim thrashes about and contorts, defying physics, Michael begins to fear for Father Lucas.  And rightfully so, for at some point the elderly priest has fallen under the spell of the demonic phenomenon.   The young priest soon realizes that there truly is evil and if evil is manifested in the being of the Devil, then there must also be a God. Michael will need his new-found faith in order to defeat Satan and save Father Lucas.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Thought-provoking or merely Hollywood chiller-thriller? For me The Rite was a bit too Hollywood, leaning more toward jolting spookery than ecclesiastical profundity. This raises the question, should we attend movies about satanic oppression? That’s your call. It’s merely my job to give you my take on the production and report its content.

As an example of the devil possession genre, The Rite is a hit and miss. Director Mikael Hafstrom keeps the action gripping, newcomer Colin O’Donoghue does a credible job and, of course, Sir Anthony Hopkins takes on the role of priest much the way he does a liver-eating, Chianti-drinking mass murderer – ferociously. But the film also seems overly familiar.

Fright-flick tricks abound, including loud music chords that jolt us, clichéd visuals, including one with a cat (the horror film bromide) jumping out at the protagonist, and countless sudden red herrings meant to remind us that this is a horror film. And, while the depictions of the devil-possessed are not as gruesomely presented as in the legions of The Exorcist follow-ups, still the CGI metamorphosis from tranquil soul to demonic being reminds viewers more of the Wolfman transformation than a soul in torment. We don’t learn enough about the victims to be concerned, nor do we ever learn when or how they were overcome by demonic forces.

In his 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose, filmmaker Scott Derrickson fashioned a horror film that made you think, then made you pray. He skillfully blended flashes of terror with moments of spiritual insight. In The Rite, the imagery is toned down a bit from classic horror versions on the theme, but I found the statement for the need of faith to be muted and muddled, the filmmaker either afraid to present matters of faith on screen or unable to. By not going full-bore on the horror aspects, nor treating spiritual matters with the same passion as found in Derrickson’s Emily Rose, Hafstrom’s The Rite is neither right nor wrong, just middle of the road.

That said, there are some sincere concepts found in The Rite, as in the wise pronouncement from Father Lucas, “Choosing not to believe in the Devil won’t protect you from him.” It also raises a theological issue; can a Believer succumb to demonic possession? What’s more, the public is reminded that the Catholic Church believes so strongly in this affliction that they have provided a school dedicated to its treatment. The picture will remind Christians who believe in Satan’s influence on our world to put on the full armor of God. So, despite the Hollywood contrivances, I suspect, this will be the most thought-provoking thriller you’ll see this year.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: A couple of crude sexual innuendoes and comments at a bar; later, a demon’s voice hurls sexual remarks from the victim.

Obscene Language: I caught two obscenities.

Profanity: Christ’s name was profaned in one scene.

Violence: The demon contorting the victims’ bodies is extremely violent and at times, gruesome.

Sex: No sexual activity, just a couple of comments of a sexual nature made at a bar and a demon speaks sexual vulgarities through its victim.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Social drinking, beer at a bar.

Other: None

Running Time: 127 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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