The Rite is a 2011 American horror feature film directed by Mikael Håfström from a screenplay by Michael Petroni. It is loosely based on Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist which itself is based on allegedly “real events” as witnessed and recounted by then, exorcist-in-training, Father Gary Thomas and his experiences from being sent to Rome to be trained.
The movie stars Anthony Hopkins (Magic; The Silence of the Lambs; Hannibal), Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga and Rutger Hauer (The Hitchhiker).
Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), disillusioned with his past job as a mortician, decides to enter a seminary school and abdicate his vows upon completion, thereby getting a free college degree.
Four years have passed, and Michael is being ordained to the diaconate at the seminary. After ordination, he writes a letter of resignation to his superior, Father Matthew, citing a lack of faith. Father Matthew (Toby Jones), apparently wanting to talk to Michael, attempts to catch up to Michael on the street. He trips as he walks over a curb, causing a cyclist to swerve into the path of an oncoming van. The young female cyclist, Sandra (Marija Karan), is critically injured. Seeing Michael’s clerical garb, the cyclist asks him for absolution before her last breath.
Initially hesitant but unable to refuse, Michael comforts her and performs a blessing ritual, thereby absolving her of her sins. Seeing how calmly Michael handled the situation, Father Matthew tells Michael that he is called to be a priest despite his resignation. He also tells Michael that with the rise of demonic possessions every year, the Church needs more exorcists and says that he has the potential to become an exorcist. Father Matthew wants to send him to the Vatican in Rome, so he can attend a class on exorcism taught by his friend Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds).
Michael reluctantly accepts after being told by Father Matthew that the Church might convert his scholarship into a student loan that would cost $100,000 if his immediate resignation stands. If Michael attends the exorcism class and still desires to resign afterwards, then they will discuss matters…
“Great actors such as Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones and Rutger Hauer slum it in extended cameos while Anthony Hopkins puts in a typical hammy turn as Father Lucas, an eccentric priest who might be sailing a little too close to the dark side … In this day and age, it is the blanket secrecy and numerous cover ups by the Catholic Church people should rightly fear. That feels very real and palpable.” Martyn Conterio, Little White Lies
“Choosing not to believe in the Devil won’t protect you from him,” Lucas tells the doubting novice, but more pertinent is whether we choose to believe in Hopkins as he rages, gurns and spouts like a boyo from the Welsh Valleys, and even takes a call on his mobile mid-exorcism. Was it his agent? Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones and Rutger Hauer are wasted in idle roles, while Old Nick himself fails to raise any sort of Hell you haven’t seen before.” Anthony Quinn, The Independent
“This is I suspect a more realistic film than “The Exorcist,” although not its equal. The real Father Gary Thomas has cited “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005) as more accurate. I admire The Rite because while it delivers what I suppose should be called horror, it is atmospheric, its cinematography is eerie and evocative, and the actors enrich it. It has given some thought to exorcism. Grant its assumptions, and it has something to say.” Roger Ebert, RogerEbert.com
“The movie is at its best before things get too crazy and we watch Hopkins as the elderly Father Lucas. He acts wonderfully and brings a likeable humanity to the role. By the end though, Hopkins is channeling all of the accents he can muster into a single mashed-up performance. I even caught glimpses of Hannibal Lecter in there somewhere.” Sam Chazon, filmdrift
” …it’s just nonsense – in the early stages, where Lucas keeps saying that the demon will pretend not to be there, we have a more convincing cat and mouse set-up (oh, yes, there are lots of cats in the film for some reason), but the finale, which depends on the hero not being able to find any more qualified priests in Rome, is the usual exorcism movie encounter-group-in-a-dark-room-with-chanting session. As always in straitened circumstances, Hopkins slices the ham thick…” The Kim Newman Web Site