Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) stopped believing in Jesus Christ as an adolescent when his mother died. As we will later find out, this invited a sinister element into his midst. Michael’s father Istvan Kovak (Rutger Hauer) insisted from his infancy onward, that he become a priest or a mortician, a family tradition as it were. Having no interest in beautifying the dead, Michael opts for the priesthood. This decision alienates his best friend and probably half of the town’s single women, but such is the price one must pay for their spiritual calling into the service of God.
In the blink of an eye (literally) four years have passed and Michael is nearing his graduation. Along with receiving a diploma on the horizon, so too is his official commitment to the priesthood. In a meeting with his spiritual mentor Father Mathew (Toby Jones), we find out that the priest to be has flunked theology. This is disappointing news for someone nearing their vow of celibacy. In order to cement Michael’s dedication to the priesthood, Father Superior insists he visit Italy for two months. After some nudging, Michael packs his bags and visits Rome. This is where we discover his potential true calling.
The seminar that Michael is scheduled to participate in is about the ritual practice of exorcism. Sometimes you only get out of it what you put into it! (Applause Line) After the first few classes, Michael is confronted by the seminar instructor. He is chastised for his disbelief and his faith is called into question. The only way to avoid being reprimanded is for Michael to visit one of the world’s leading exorcists to witness firsthand that it is not only real, it can be fatal.
Accordingly, Michael is sent to Father Lucas’ (Anthony Hopkins) house to seek guidance and to bear witness. Lucas understands his reluctance to believe but he shows him tangible proof of a young, pregnant, woman’s struggle with possession. Michael does not yet realize it, but he has been followed by this particular demon his entire life. The nature of his faith is about to change drastically but not before he continues denying what is in front of his very eyes.
Michael continues to pressure Lucas for further proof. He insists that the young possessed woman would be better treated by a psychiatrist. Despite her changes in language, ugly contortions, and filthy responses, Michael is unconvinced. As his visits to Lucas continue, strange events occur that confounds his beliefs. He looks to a local reporter, Angeline (Alice Braga), for guidance and reassurance. She is also a skeptic but is willing to search for the truth. After many harrowing encounters with el Diablo, the young pregnant woman is murdered by an invisible force and her child is also strangled in the womb. This places Michael and Angeline’s lives in jeopardy. The demon does not disappear. It moves onto Father Lucas who had previously been impenetrable and impervious to demonic assault. The young, faithless Michael is forced to choose between belief and all out domination brought on by the devil.
At times, The Rite is hilarious. Perhaps no more so than at the very beginning. As the introductory credits began rolling, I read that The Rite is “inspired by a true story”. Usually filmmakers would have us believe a picture is “based on a true story”. Imagine my excitement at reading the entire film is full of horse droppings! However, in my rush to non-judgment, George Costanza said it best, manure may not be as bad as it sounds. Man and “newer” are its basest elements! While there is absolutely nothing original about this picture, it is a fascinating twist on all other accounts. It does not rely on Olympic gymnastics or gruesome images. Instead it is more spiritual and mental than gory and insane. The Rite is a nice addition to exorcist films, particularly since Anthony Hopkins is involved, but it offers nothing new to distinguish it from the crowded genre. I would not choose to view it again under any circumstances.
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