Inspired by a true story, the new movie “The Rite” presents a familiar debate about religion versus secularism in the modern world. Like the television show “Lost,” “The Rite” takes the debate seriously and presents both sides of the contentious subject. Anthony Hopkins delivers a particularly strong performance as an Exorcist in this genuinely creepy film about a would-be priest struggling with his faith.
The lead character in the story is Michael Kovak (Colin O’ Donoghue), who decides early on that he wants to enter the priesthood. He’s not excited about his decision and his faith isn’t really explored early on in the story. Kovak just knows that being a priest is a better option for him than becoming a mortician like his father. That’s a good enough reason for him to enter the ministry.
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Even as Kovak starts training for the priesthood, it’s unclear if he even believes in God. It’s no surprise then when Kovak, right before he is confirmed as priest, decides to quit. He’s lost whatever faith he might have had when he entered the ministry. However, God has other plans for Kovak and before his resignation is accepted, he watches as a woman gets struck by a car. Kneeling near the dying woman, she asks him to bless her and Kovak acquiesces.
At the advice of Father Matthew (Toby Jones), who also witnessed the accident, Kovak decides to visit Rome to take a class on exorcisms. Kovak still doesn’t believe in God but he chooses to take the trip and is soon introduced to Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), a man who routinely performs exorcisms at his home.
Father Trevant is a firm believer in both Christ and the devil. Kovak, after watching the exorcism of a pregnant patient, still has doubts about religion and questions Trevant’s methods. Kovak believes that Trevant’s patients are ill, not possessed. As the pregnant girl continues to struggle with the demons inside of her, Kovak questions whether or not she is actually being possessed by a demon.
From start to finish, “The Rite” is a genuinely creepy story. Instead of relying on people or objects popping up on screen to frighten the audience, the story slowly builds up suspense. Even when you think you know where the story is going, it takes several unexpected turns and offers a few nice surprises. One of the film’s best surprises is Anthony Hopkins’ strong performance. The role of Trevant features both quiet moments and more intense ones and Hopkins handles both situations well, proving how great he can be when given strong material.
The story also takes the subject of exorcisms seriously and shows both sides of the debate. Both Kovak and Father Trevant are presented as strong and relatable characters. Alice Braga, who shows up as a reporter writing a story about exorcisms, also does a strong job with her role as a cynical but interested observer who finds herself getting closer to the story than she was prepared for.
Overall, “The Rite” is a well-made thriller that features several strong performances. The story takes its time and builds up to an exciting conclusion. It’s a movie that will likely start a few debates with its depiction of both religion and exorcisms. However, it’s a story that takes faith seriously and offers a few insights into the subject.
If that doesn’t interest you, “The Rite” is also one hell of a creepy movie.