The Rite, Anthony Hopkins

Directed by Mikael Håfström. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue,
Alice Braga.

A plodding rehash of most other (and far better) movies about exorcism, this one’s scariest moment is when Anthony Hopkins whacks an eight-year-old girl to the ground. It’s also the most thrilling, so that gives you an idea of how bad things are here.

I’m sure there are a few movies Anthony Hopkins has acted in that aren’t that good. But, I’ve usually always gone with the blind faith that if it has Hopkins, it can’t be all that bad. Father, I have lost my faith! I don’t believe anymore! I am unworthy of God’s divine love!

The Rite tells the tale (apparently ‘inspired’ from a concept note of a book ‘inspired’ from true events but at the end of the movie they’re smart enough to mention most of the film is quite fictional) of troubled Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue) who takes a career jump from working at his dictator father’s (Rutger Hauer) funeral home to studying to become a priest. But he just doesn’t have the faith to believe. Why? Well apart from some flashbacks of his past involving his father making up his dead mother’s body for burial there’s not much to discern his inner anguish.

The seminary principal believes in Michael however, why, we don’t know really. So he gives him an incentive. Study exorcism in Rome instead of being a boring old priest. Reluctantly, Michael agrees and finds himself being tutored by Father Lucas played by Hopkins, who is supposed to be the expert in exorcising the demons within helpless young people. I’m sure a lot of parents nowadays would like to give him a ring.

My ex-colleague and friend from Filmfare announced before the start of the film that he gets jumpy in horror movies. But he lay slumped in his lounger at Eros Cinema’s preview hall throughout the film budging only to answer his cell phone. The very first scene at old Father Lucas’s decrepit house shows Michael peering into a window and suddenly a black cat catapults at the pane glass from inside. From then on you know any ‘jhatkas’ (jolts) you get will be predictable and tame.

The Rite throws no new light on exorcisms. Neither does it enlighten us on the church’s practises or beliefs regarding this largely surreptitious ritual. Agreed most copycats aren’t a patch on the original The Exorcist. In fact, even this one refers to it almost self-mocking with a line: “What did you expect, spinning heads and pea soup?” The Rite has body contortion and Father Lucas’s hands go all the way back sort of like I do my stretches for the chest after gym. It’s painful but hardly scary. Much like this film.

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