Exorcist movies — if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. The Rite doesn’t change that much.
Set first in America, then later in Rome, the film introduces us to Michael (newcomer Colin O’Donoghue), a young man who elects not to follow in his dad’s mortician footsteps, choosing instead to become a priest. But during his year as a deacon, he realizes that the religious life just isn’t for him, that he “lacks the foundation.”
But then there’s a bad accident. An older priest (Toby Jones) decides that Michael, despite being a skeptic, would make a great exorcist, and, hey, there’s this new exorcism school happening at the Vatican!
Before you can say spinning heads and pea soup — both terms are actually used in the script — Michael jets to Rome to learn about demons. But he starts pondering his vow of celibacy when a young journalist (Alice Braga) chats him up, and soon he’s being mentored by the unorthodox exorcist Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins).
Father Lucas is the kind of guy who likes to throw people right into the fray. While checking on a young, supposedly possessed woman, he instructs Michael: “Do not speak to her directly, keep praying, good luck.”
You won’t find any spinning heads here, but there are the usual creepy voices and contortions, along with glossolalia and general gruesomeness. Watch out! Other signs of evil include cats, frogs and a red-eyed mule.
blue eyes and menacing smile, as always, are up to the task. But
O’Donoghue, either through lack of acting depth or misguided direction,
comes across as a flat and uninteresting character. In the fight against
evil, he isn’t much of a contender.
A CHAT WITH SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS
A couple of things about the veteran Welsh actor, who likes to be called Tony: He doesn’t give much thought to the existence of Satan. And he can’t quite figure out how he scares people.
INLANDER: Did doing this film change your religious beliefs?
HOPKINS: I don’t know what my beliefs are about any of it. I would hate to live in a world of certainty, of a closed circuit, of a windowless room. I’d rather live with uncertainty. Whatever the devil is, or is not, I think when we turn our backs on our own frailty and our own humanity and say we know the truth for certain, then we are in trouble.
Do you realize that you can scare people with just a facial expression?
I think we all flirt with chaos. We all go into a dark movie theater to give ourselves a scare. And I just know how to scare people. I don’t know how I do it. It’s a trick, I guess, just a look.
Isn’t it part of your art as an actor?
I don’t know about art. I’m not being cynical here, but when you’re doing a movie, you have a number of choices as an actor. Then you see it all put together, and some of those precious little pieces you put in may be on the cutting room floor.
Are you still having fun acting?
It’s what I earn my living doing, and it’s still a challenge. … I enjoy the process of it. You go on the set in the morning, and you kick the lines around a little, and hopefully, you’re going to work with somebody who’s pleasant to work with and you’ve got a pleasant director. All in all, it’s a pretty good experience.