The Rite - Blu-ray Review

'Hopkins might be exorcising the devil but it feels like he might sit down to have a cup of tea with you at any moment'

On the one hand, The Rite is one of those films which handles its themes with all the tact and delicacy of a Hugh Jackman fighting robots film. An early shot in Michael Kovak's (Colin O'Donoghue) home town spends far too long ogling the cinema, which happens to be called 'Resurrection Theatre', for no discernible reason other than for director Mikael Håfström to start getting his ideas about faith, doubt and redemption across.

As a film which deals with those large circular considerations The Rite proves surprisingly effective. Kovak has become a priest only to escape his small town. Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) seems to be a priest in exile, who admits occasional crises of faith early on. Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds) is so zealous in his beliefs that he is unable to enter coherent conversation with Kovak's logical thought progressions. As a film which sets out to deal with faith as a concept - particularly its ever-swinging nature between 'solid' and 'shaky' - Håfström's creation does a good, albeit fairly casual, job.

Somewhere within his musings on faith Håfström appears to have half-thought about making a horror film. In the end product this is concretely not the case. There are perhaps three-to-four scenes which could have been taken from a horror film, three of them involving exorcisms, which form the backbone of the narrative. Beyond these though, there's nothing scary about The Rite, which doesn't even manage to hold down a solid feeling of dread at any point. Håfström either needed to forgo the horror entirely (difficult in a film concerned with exorcising the devil) or develop it much more and the lack of focus on this element lends the film a rather tame air for the most part.

Take it as a thriller which occasionally touches base with its horror forefathers though and you stand a chance of getting a positive experience out of The Rite. Hopkins gives a very naturalistic performance for the most part: he might be exorcising the devil but it feels like he might sit down to have a cup of tea with you at any moment. Hinds doesn't get enough to do (a common theme for him this year) and Alice Braga's token role is a complete waste of time. O'Donoghue, who has to ground all this hokum in the believable shell of a priest who doesn't really want to be a priest, is solid enough to carry the film and considering the alternatives in his age group (Orlando Bloom and James McAvoy spring to mind) he probably does just enough to achieve better-than-average marks.

Look further...

'a moody and intelligent drama, with strong performances and a genuine sense of mood and place. The first two acts are engaging and thoughtful, and the somewhat more visceral third act doesn't fatally wound the film' - Mendelson's Memos, C


  1. How strange, I watched this last night!

    And I'd agree with you on all points. I think it suffers from being another "exorcism" film even if it balances it's more theatrical exoricsm scenes with a dose of well-needed drama. There's a "seen it done before" vibe to the film that can be summed up in Braga's character who really adds nothing new to the film, like the film itself adds very little to the exorcism sub-genre.

    I think someone needs to be brave and stop copying the template set by others and really create a horror film that scares audiences.

  2. i think i must be a wimpoid because this movie scared the bejeebus out of me!!! :)
    what i thought was interesting was how the crisis of faith was the true thing to be scared of. Although it is natural and all that, it is what opens them up for the attack of the demon. i'm always a sucker for the concept of "the true thing to fear is you." :)

  3. desertofreel - yup, for me, the exorcism element was too weak and its really vital for the film to work as a whole - you can't just say 'never mind' and forget about it - it needs the exorcising to be scary to work more than it did.

    vic - glad to hear it scared you more... I think! Absolutely agree with your second point. The weaving of the faith element with the exorcism plot and the proximity to the devil was definitely an interesting idea, just found it a bit flawed in execution.

  4. The trailers played here in my home town but the film itself never materialised!! I was going to see it even though horror isn't my thing.
    I sort of got the feeling from the trailers that they were the highlights of the film though. Somehow my feelings are coroborated by your review. One day it may makeit into my DVD player and I'll find out for myself!

  5. It's definitely a DVD-only type film. Wouldn't worry about missing it on the big screen. If you go for it go for it because of the consideration of faith and doubt, there's not much there really if what you're after is a horror.