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Thursday, February 03, 2011

"The Rite" Stuff

Movie Review - The Rite

For those who would believe, no explanation is necessary, for those who wouldn’t, no explanation is enough.


The movie The Rite is to exorcisms what The Right Stuff was to space travel. Sure, today’s audiences love Armageddon and other ‘space’ movies filled with action and suspense… but both Tom Wolfe’s book, and the movie The Right Stuff also dealt with the tediousness of the never-ending medical tests, the selection process, the indignity of ‘space chimps’ and the mendacity of press conferences. Why? Because Wolfe wasn’t writing an action packed thrill-a-minute joy ride… he was documenting the early American space program.

So it is with The Rite. The vast majority of the beginning of this latest exorcism fare is spent introducing us to priest-in-training Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue). Above all, we learn that he has chosen his path reluctantly and without any particular calling. After four years at seminary school, he is ready to give up the whole idea of priesthood but his plans for an exit are interrupted when his Father Superior (Toby Jones) sends him to Rome hoping that training as an exorcist might intrigue him and entice him to stay. Father Kovak takes to Rome a full suitcase of disbelief, cynicism, and agnosticism. He challenges his Roman instructor (Ciaran Hinds) at every turn and makes no qualms in expressing his disbelief. For those viewers with short attention spans, this is the interminably long part of the film.

It takes nearly half-an-hour before we see what most viewers have come to see – Hannibal Lec…… errr… I mean Anthony Hopkins. This will prove to be, however one of Sir Hopkins best roles (insomuch as range of character, playing opposite ends of humanity and still being credible, and giving more than a taste of what we loved so much in Silence of the Lambs).

At this point, I’d love to say the pace of the movie picks up, there are trembling walls, spinning beds and Linda Blairs left and right, but this isn’t a horror or gore movie. At this point we learn about Hopkin’s character (Father Lukas Trevant) and a bit more about the beliefs behind exorcism, as well as the day-to-day ministering to the sick and possessed.

All the slow time is not without reason. Like society’s impression of demonic possession in general, we are lulled into thinking this is going nowhere, it’s a sham, it’s parlor tricks and much ado about nothing. At one point, Hopkins gives a line quite similar to the famous, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist” from The Usual Suspects.

The climax is worth every moment spent watching celluloid as thrilling as home movies. You realize what a prefect skeptic Fr. Kovak is; how unprepared he is for the task at hand, and we truly wonder what the outcome will be.

This movie takes turns and gives insights no previous exorcism movie has taken – perhaps because it was based on the true account of a California priest (Fr. Gary Thomas) and journalist Matt Baglio (changed by Hollywood to the very attractive Alice Braga). The special effects are spectacular without breaking the illusion of reality. Your greatest fears will come from the possibility that this is real, rather than any overblown, unrealistic horror effects.

Rating – Not quite The Exorcist for spectacular Horror/Thrill, and more believable than even Emily Rose.

(4 out of 5 spinning, pea-soup chucking heads)

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