Friday, 3 February 2012

The Rite (2011)

The Rite is a 2011 American supernatural horror film directed by Mikael Håfström and written by Michael Petroni. It is based on Matt Baglio's book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, which itself is based on allegedly real events with Father Gary Thomas. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue and Alice Braga. Shot in Rome and Budapest, it was released on January 28, 2011.

The Plot

Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), disillusioned with his 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. However, 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 Michael out of his decision, 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 cyclist Sandra (Marija Karan), a young woman is critically injured and, after seeing his clerical garb, believes Michael to be a priest and asks him for absolution. After initial hesitation and unable to refuse, Michael comforts her and performs the blessing ritual absolving her sins. Seeing how calmly he handled the situation, Father Matthew tells Michael he is called to be a priest, whether Michael believes this or not. He later approaches Michael with an invitation to travel to Rome in order to attend a class on exorcism. Michael reluctantly accepts after being told by Father Matthew that he will be levied a $100,000 student loan if he leaves immediately, but that if he still desires to resign from his position after taking the class, then they will discuss it then (hinting that he may be free to leave).

During classes, he meets a young woman, Angelina (Alice Braga), who is also taking the course. He soon learns that she is a reporter who has been asked to cover the course for an article in a newspaper. Realizing Michael is a skeptic and is very tentative in his faith, Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds) later asks Michael to see a friend of his, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who is a renowned Welsh Jesuit exorcist. Michael agrees and meets Father Lucas at his home, where he sees one of the priest's patients: a pregnant sixteen-year-old girl, Rosaria. It is later revealed that she was raped by her father, which led to her possession. However, Michael remains skeptical, even after witnessing several preternatural events, such as the girl coughing up three long nails and fluently speaking English. She pointedly reminds Michael of the last patient he embalmed and of his loathing for his father. He later speaks with Angelina again, who asks him to relay the information that he gets from Father Lucas to her, as she has tried to get an interview with him many times but has been refused. Michael declines. Meanwhile, Rosaria's condition worsens, highlighted by when she tried to drown herself, prompting Father Lucas and Michael to have her taken to a hospital for further care. There, Father Lucas performs another exorcism on the girl while Michael observes. They leave the hospital room together with Michael while Father Lucas stays overnight outside the girl's room. Late that night, she miscarries; the baby dies from cardiac arrest and the mother from blood loss from major hemorrhaging. Disheartened, Father Lucas feels he has failed her. After Michael sees this he decides to confer with Angelina.

After the death of the young woman, Father Lucas begins behaving strangely, exhibiting signs of demonic possession. Michael and Angelina later find him sitting outside of his house in the rain. Father Lucas takes them into his house and, knowing himself to be possessed, tells Michael that he needs to find Father Xavier in order to perform the exorcism. Angelina and Michael try desperately to contact and find Father Xavier; however, they learn that he is out of contact for three days. Learning this, Michael decides to perform the exorcism on his own, with Angelina present. After constant rebuking by the demon and a long, drawn out fight, Michael regains his once lost faith and is able to force the demon to reveal its name, which is Baal. He completes the exorcism, and the powerful demon leaves Father Lucas. Successful, Michael leaves Rome, returning to the United States and to his life.

The final scene of the film shows Michael, now Father Michael Kovak, entering a confessional and beginning to hear a girl's confession, revealing that he has found his calling as a priest and did not resign.


The film has received negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes says that out of 148 critics, 20% of them gave it a positive review (22% of 27 top critics gave it a positive review), which qualifies the film as "Rotten". The consensus is "Anthony Hopkins is as excellent as ever, but he's no match for The Rite's dawdling pace and lack of chills – or Colin O'Donoghue's tentative performance in the leading role."

On the other hand, The film was generally more well received within the Catholic community although questioning its classification as "horror". The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops noted: "Though shaky on a few details, director Mikael Hafstrom's conversion tale resoundingly affirms faith and the value of priestly ministry. Yet the effort to showcase the main character's spiritual journey as an old-fashioned chillfest weakens its ultimate impact."

Roger Ebert, while also questioning the "horror" classification, gave a positive review stating, "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." Chris Pandolfi, as well, gave the film a more positive review. He praised director Mikael Håfström's approach, comparing it favorably to his last effort, 1408, saying "His new movie isn’t as consistently frightening, but then again, that really wasn’t the point. He’s tackling a subject that for some people is real, and his approach is both entertaining and respectful."

The Cast

Anthony Hopkins as Father Lucas Trevant
 Colin O'Donoghue as Michael Kovak
 Alice Braga as Angeline
 Ciarán Hinds as Father Xavier
 Rutger Hauer as Istvan Kovak
 Toby Jones as Father Matthew
 Marta Gastini as Rosaria
 Maria Grazia Cucinotta as Aunt Andria
 Arianna Veronesi as Francesca
 Andrea Calligari as Vincenzo
 Chris Marquette as Eddie
 Torrey DeVitto as Nina
 Ben Cheetham as Young Michael
 Marija Karan as Sandra

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