By Jess Bonniwell
So I walked into the theatre with a group of friends to see “The Rite” thinking, “Hey, this movie is probably going to suck”. Halfway through the movie I started to think “Hey, I could be totally wrong, this movie could be awesome!” When the movie ended, I leaned back in my seat, let out a sigh and said aloud “Hey… that movie was actually TERRIBLE.”
Please read on, and allow me to tear this film a new one.
The Rite is a supernatural thriller directed by Mikael Hafstrom and based on the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist” by Matt Baglio. The movie is about… exorcisms. That’s it. Acting in the lead role and making his first film appearance is Colin O’Donoghue (what did I think of him? Well… he’s got a ways to go but I won’t make any early judgments) and playing the supporting character and grizzled old exorcist is everybody’s favorite cannibal Sir Anthony Hopkins (ok I might as well say it since it’s obvious, he’s the only reason anyone is actually going to give the movie a chance). Supposedly, the book is based on true events seen through the eyes of the author who claims to have personally witnessed preternatural events during multiple exorcisms. As for the director, the only film ever made by Mikael Hafstrom that I actually bothered with was his 2007 horror thriller “1408” starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson (that guy’s in everything!). I’ll admit that 1408 was mildly entertaining but a bit slow. A single well-written and well-placed scene saved the movie at the very end.
The Rite? Not so much.
Here’s the breakdown:
The Good: I can actually say there were a few worthwhile parts of this movie… and they were in the first half. The suspense of the movie was fairly well built. All of the events connected coherently and moved in the same general direction (like a fart). Also, the introduction and acclimation to the main character was pretty well handled. The audience was able to understand fairly well what he was going through. Oh and of course, Anthony Hopkins. I’m not going to go on about him because we all know he’s amazing. Let’s just say he was a good priest and he was a better demon. One last mention I will make is the cinematography, I won’t lie, it was beautiful. There was a lot of depth of field and macro play (for the common man, that’s extreme close ups and varied sharp focus).
The Bad: Ah yes, the bad. Welcome to the rest of this review. I’m going to say it right away; the ABSOLUTE worst thing in this movie was the writing. However, I can’t say all the writing was bad. Like I said before, the first half of the movie was stable. The second half, bottomed out. In a “hey lets randomly fill out the rest of this script with whatever comes to mind” kind of way. TERRIBLE! ALL of the hints and subtle indications in the first half led to dead ends or stereotypical conclusions in the end. It was like they started with someone who could actually come up with a script that made sense and then ended with pulling a hobo off the street and telling him “Hey we need you to write a climax for our movie in five minutes because we’re shooting it in ten”. The climax was barely watchable because Hopkins’ acting carried the script (thereby tricking people into actually being entertained). Creepy as the old wrinkly demon was, he couldn’t make the movie good. Why? BECAUSE HE WASN’T THE MAIN CHARACTER! Even if the master actor’s work carried his role into looking good, Colin O’Donoghue doesn’t nearly reach that kind of mark, and his role was equally if not more important! The climax was still flashy and gave off the idea that this demon is some serious stuff. Like this has got to be Lucifer himself. Who is it? Baal. BAAL!? I quite literally said aloud in the theatre “Baal? That’s it?” Baal is known in the Bible as a lesser demon under Lucifer. Granted, he is a demon lord, but he’s pretty dang low on the list, and certainly not worthy of possessing Anthony Hopkins. One last bit of the writing I will complain about is the presence of Alice Braga’s character, the subtle love interest/confidant of O’Donoghue. She was an absolute waste. The character should not have existed at all. The entire movie focuses sharply on no one being able to change the main character’s mind but his own, and in the end she walks in and tells him what to think and, lo and behold, he thinks it! Wow! That makes SO MUCH SENSE!
The Bottom Line: If you enjoy being immensely disappointed and yearn for it to be done well… then by all means, watch this movie. For myself, a waste of time, money and TALENT.
The Reel Rating: