Wednesday 2 March 2011

Review: The Rite

Year: 2011
Director: Mikael Håfström
Screenplay: Michael Petroni
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue

Synopsis is here

It's safe to say that I couldn't stand The Rite. For me it failed in all areas. Supernatural Thriller? I wasn't thrilled. Horror film? I wasn't scared. Drama? Those elements left me cold. Of course for many, Anthony Hopkins would be a draw unfortunately this will not be one of his crowning achievements. In fact The Rite reminds me why I sometimes dislike Hopkins as an actor. Here, Sir Hopkins is a teeth gnashing, scene chomping irritant; thundering in with a performance so hammy during the final third that the only thing missing from it is a honey glaze. Such a performance this is that it makes the "based on a true story" credits at the beginning even more snort worthy.

This is not to say that whatever the author of the book that The Rite is based on is an outright lie. Far from it. The true life account of a want-away priest gaining a new perceptive after witnessing real exorcisms appeals to a person like myself. I'm not a man of faith per say but the lives of those who have faith I find quite compelling. The problem however, is that these events are shoved into a very by-the-numbers execution. Don't look for ambiguity within The Rite, as it wishes to follow down all same routes that we've seen in features such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose et all.

Of course shades of The Exorcist appear within the films DNA, but it is clear to the viewer that the film wishes to take a less hysterical approach. A throw away line sets us straight when Hopkins' Father Lucas states after the first event we see "what did you expect? Spinning heads?". For the most part wants us to question what we see as the devil or mental illness. However, The Rite's approach to this is so lackluster that one doesn't need to question it (the film plays an obvious hand very quickly) nor does one indeed care. The young priest (O'Donoghue) whose eyes we are meant to see this story through not only lacks faith but any kind of charisma to keep us interested. O'Donoghue doesn't appear to be a bad actor, however, this a role with no characteristics to make it stand out. But with this said, The Rite is a film which believes that the old cat at the window jump scare is creative enough for it's audience.

This uninspired approach takes us all the way through the film. O'Donoghue gives us the seriously concerned face throughout, while director Mikael Håfström trudges us through very familiar territory at a snails pace. Hopkins only frustrates by giving us an impression of a Hannibal Lector impersonator. Once again reminding me that I'd rather watch Manhunter over Red Dragon.

Some ok visuals aside (the red eyed horse and the possessed 16 year old provide evocative imagery) there is nothing truly of note within The Rite. The Exorcist still provides the richness needed for the themes in place (it is also based on alleged elements of truth). To add to this, there are other films in recent times that may not have succeeded with completely but have at least been daring enough to play with certain features. At least with those films they sought out to seek a reaction.