Anthony Hopkins is a veteran exorcist who shows a novice the tricks of the trade, so to speak, in The Rite, a decidedly sober supernatural thriller about demonic possession that stands in stark contrast to the gymnastic pyrotechnics of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Last Exorcism. Colin O’Donoghue is the new-minted priest with a truckload of familial baggage (as a boy, father Rutger Hauer showed him his mother’s corpse shortly before preparation in the family’s funeral business) and a sincere crisis of faith. His adviser (Ciarán Hinds) ships him off to Rome, where he studies under Hopkins, who treats the dismissal of evil forces like a not particularly strenuous therapy session. But when a young pregnant woman turns up with a nasty case of the Devil inside, the tables are quickly turned, and O’Donoghue is forced to ply his training in an actual confrontation with demonic forces. Director Mikael Håfström has an extraordinary visual eye for malevolence in architecture, and his pacing and restraint in delivering full-bore shocks are admirable. Unfortunately, the result is somewhat stillborn, never quite fulfilling its promise as a thinking person’s exorcism film, and instead hoping that meaningful glances and mounting shadows will suffice as atmosphere. Hopkins is also restrained in his performance, which works in its early stages–his post-Silence of the Lambs roles have hinged so often on operatic rages that one forgets what a subtle actor he can be–but falters in his later scenes, which require him to deliver the film’s central chills. The Rite is a notable effort that simply doesn’t translate beyond the page.

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 2011
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Run time: 114 minutes
Rating: PG-13

Audio: DTS HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD / 2 DVD
Region: 1

The Rite looked like it would be a mixed bag right from the start. The film seemed to suffer the same fate many other films before it fell victim to and that’s giving away too much of the storyline in the trailers. On top of that, it was a film that revolved around exorcism which is a subject that usually leads to disappointing results. Expectations would lead one to believe that The Rite would have enough momentum to reel you in only to drop the ball during its finale similar to last year’s The Last Exorcism (except hopefully without the appearance of a neon red, glow in the dark fetus). Luckily, the film has a few surprises up its sleeve.

The cinematography in the film is probably the first thing you’ll notice visually. The opening of the film makes things like dripping embalming fluid, a swing set on a playground, and an overturned shopping cart seem more interesting than they really are. Rain is an element used fairly often in the film to usually signify when something has gone wrong or is about to. Whether the camera is placed up high to make it seem like you’re looking down on the cast from the heavens or down low as if you’re looking up at them from the depths of the earth, the rain sequences in the film are definitely some of the most memorable due to the camera work.

This is probably a pretty obvious statement, but the film is worth seeing for Anthony Hopkins alone. It’s not that Colin O’Donoghue does poorly since he certainly has a strong screen presence and does a fantastic job carrying the film, but Hopkins just manages to trump that while stealing every scene he’s in and rightfully so. Father Lucas Trevant is the strongest and creepiest role Hopkins has played since Hannibal Lecter and his best role overall in years. It’s just amazing seeing a man in his seventies give a performance that’s this physical and this absorbing. Speaking of distinguished actors, it was nice seeing Rutger Hauer as well even if it was just for a small role.

The dream sequences and hallucinations in the film may have been my hands down favorite. I’ve always been a fan of the surreal, the imaginative, the creative, and the things that don’t seem to make sense at first but gain meaning as the film or story progresses. I never thought I’d find myself intrigued with the actions of a mule or that frogs could have an even deeper meaning than what you’re probably expecting, but The Rite accomplishes this very well.
Movie Quality: 9/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 2:40:1 aspect ratio. Benjamin Button’ is a beautiful looking film that brings its unique style to high definition. There were many times throughout the film where my jaw dropped to the floor due to the beautiful visual effects. Black levels are deep and inky. Flesh tones were accurate. Details are some of the best that you will see in high definition.
Print Quality: 9/10

The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA l0ssless 5.1 mix. This film is dialogue driven with the score peering into the soundfield. Dialogue was clean through the center channel with a nice degree of depth. I never had to raise or lower the volume to make out what was being said. The soundfield does get a few effects into play, but nothing major. The soundtrack takes advantage of the soundfield with audio also lightly pouring through the rears.
Print Quality: 9.5/10

Special Features

  • The Rite: Solider of God [HD]
  • Deleted Scenes [HD]
  • Chilling Alternate Ending [HD]
  • BD-Live Functionality

Special Features: 5/10

Final Thoughts

Thankfully, The Rite delivers an exorcism film that is actually worth seeing. It’ll probably be forgotten about in a year filled with so many blockbuster film releases, but considering that January and February are usually filled with such monstrous duds at the box office The Rite manages to surpass expectations. While the film does seem rather reminiscent of The Last Exorcism and borrows the atmosphere from the Heath Ledger film The Order, The Rite is actually a better experience overall.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10