Anthony Hopkins is a wonderful actor. Talented, graceful and capable of inhabiting roles as diverse as a serial killer, a motorcycle enthusiast and a disgraced president. He’s known for wonderful roles in wonderful movies, and therefore it’s somewhat depressing to see him playing a very slightly interesting role in a really not very good movie.
The Rite covers one of the strangest aspects of Catholicism (of which I have a famously low opinon), in that it closely examines the notion of demonic possession and exoercisms. Now exactly why demons/the Devil would want to possess someone is something I’m unclear on. Surely the possessee wouldn’t be held responsible for any sins committed while possessed. Yes, the demons could sow discord among the person’s family and friends, but doubtless there’s easier ways to do that.
Anyhow, the story focuses on a young man, Michael (Colin O’Donoghue) who attends seminary because he figures it’s an easy way to pay for college. After graduation he tries to drop out, gets threatened with having his scholarship turned into a $100k student loan and eventually gets sent to the Vatican to learn all about exorcism. His professor, (Ciran Hinds) is convinced that Michael should go talk with Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), a notable exorcist in the area.
Now this is when the movie gets interesting and stays interesting until the third act. Michael is clearly a skeptic and sees nothing about the “victims” that Father Lucas treats that couldn’t be explained by mental instability. It doesn’t help when he finds out that Father Lucas is not above a few cheap parlor tricks to make his points. Michael becomes more and more convinced that this is all a fraud and becomes more and more interested in an attractive Italian reporter (Alice Braga).
Up to this point the movie very ambiguous as to what’s going on. There’s nothing that we, the audience, along with Michael, can’t handwave away. But then in the third act things get… well, irritating, and the movie takes a turn I wasn’t too happy with. I was willing to accept that in the universe the movie takes place in, what happens on screen is possible, but it made the movie very much less interesting.
It’s almost worth seeing this movie to see Anthony Hopkins turn in yet another excellent performance, but frankly there’s other, better places to see him do that. This was a disappointing movie made even more so because it could have been so much better than it was.