Loosely based on Matt Baglio’s novel The Rite: The Making of a Modern Excorcist, The Rite traces the experiences of Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), a young seminary student who discovers the true powers of faith when he’s drafted into the Vatican’s Exorcism School and confronted by the forces of darkness.
Mikael Håfström’s direction is competent, and makes full use of the wonderful city of Rome, but never breaks free from its bleak, by-the-numbers nature.
The script, by Michael Pertroni, is predictable, starting off placid and, aside from picking up slightly when Father Matthew enters, ends in a rushed, disappointing manner, one that predominantly sticks to the thoroughly-mined themes of previous exorcism-orientated horror films.
Fortunately, even with the film falling apart at the seams, Hopkins stays on form, continually shining. He plays Father Lucas as a smooth and effortlessly witty priest, in the vein of Hannibal Lector. Everything he does is interesting to watch, and somehow makes you believe you’re watching a very different, more compelling film.
It’s a shame, then, that the film continually pulls focus back to Kovak. While intriguing, O’Donoghue doesn’t have the zealous nature to hold audiences attention, and Kovak suffers for it, never achieving the powerful stance required, often coming across as plain boring.
The supporting cast, including turns from Ciarán Hinds, Alice Braga and Rutger Hauer, populate the background to great avail, delivering compelling performances in their shamefully limited roles.
The Rite, despite a solid turn from Hopkins, is ultimately a strained, predictable and largely irrelevant addition to the exorcism sub-genre.