Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Rite

Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Produced by: Beau Flynn; Tripp Vinson
Screenplay by: Matt Baglio; Michael Petroni
Based on The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by
Matt Baglio
Starring: Anthony Hopkins; Colin O'Donoghue; Alice Braga
Music by: Alex Heffes
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Editing by: Peter Boyle
Release date(s): January 28, 2011
Running time: 113 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $37,000,000

As the film, The Rite (2010), ends and you heave a sign of relief, you wonder what was the point of the whole film, especially when the film claims that it was based an a true story, a true story involving demonic possessions. But that film was called The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), and that was a long time ago.

Do we need a new film just to convince us that The Devil exists, and demonic possessions are as common as common cold, and what’s more, if you believe The Devil, and therefore God, you can defeat evil. Cool. Thank you very much. But an entire film for this? And, especially when the director is reticent to revel in blood and gore, and all the horror shenanigans (remember Linda Blair ‘climbing’ down the stairs in The Exorcist (1973)?)

That the film doesn’t take the typical horror route, saves it from being an utter bore, and at the same make it pointless. You want to see a horror movie about demonic possession, you want the whole deal, starting with semi-nude girls to blood on the floor to full-scale mass destruction of churches and burning crosses. None of these things happen. Instead, the film becomes a coming of age story of a opportunistic young man, a McDonald kid, who is forced to choose God, which he does at the last reel.

Michael Kovak is an average aimless youngsters, who enters a seminary school, not because he is interested in theology, but he gets a scholarship. He mother is dead (who had given him a picture of an angel, and a piece of paper with the writing: “You are not alone.”), and he has a lot of issues with his mortuary-owner father (is it because when young he saw his father kissing the hands of a pretty, young dead girl?) After the studies, when he plans to dump everything and enter the civilian life again, he was threatened by his teacher, played by Toby Jones (remember, the other Trueman Capote in Infamous?), that his scholarship will be converted into student loan if he tries to leave the seminary. The other option is to go to Rome and train to be an exorcist. “You want me to be an exorcist?” Michael asks credulously. He has seen Max von Sydow in the 1973 film.

So Rome it is, where he eyes beautiful girls in hot pants, attends the class run by Father Xavier, played imposingly by Ciarán Hinds (Julius Ceasar of the TV series Rome), befriends a journalist (Alice Braga) who is looking for a story on the subject, and generally play the role of a sceptic since he doesn’t really believe in The Devil. A psychotherapist can solve the problems, he says confidently. When his rationalism becomes too much to handle for Father Xavier, the later sends Michael to meet Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), an experienced exorcist, the best in the business.

Here begins the tale. First he assists Father Lucas exorcise a pregnant woman, then a young boy and then, lo and behold, Father Lucas is possessed, and an inexperienced, unbeliever Michael must save the day. In the bargain, we see several scenes of, what else, exorcism.

Understandably, the best part of the film is Anthony Hopkins, who does a possessed version of Hannibal Lecter, does some twists and turns, uses various accents to underline his possession and generally try to scare the young exorcist and perhaps the audience. Only, nobody was scared; perhaps Colin O'Donoghue playing Michael Kovak was, he could barely match with the energy and acting range of veteran Hopkins.

Finally, Michael is converted and you wonder what’s the hoopla was about?

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