Let me say up front that I watched this on a little video gizmo on a cross-country flight – not the best way to see a movie.
Six years ago, Tripp Vinson and Beau Flynn produced a film called The Exorcism of Emily Rose which was top-notch. Marketed as a horror film, the picture had a big opening weekend – and then business dropped off as viewers, especially teenagers, realized that it wasn’t a horror film at all but an intelligent and heartfelt courtroom drama that explored questions of faith and reason… with a few scares thrown in.
Clearly, Vinson and Flynn meant to return to the well with The Rite and, while it doesn’t ultimately work, it does share a few very positive qualities with Emily Rose: intelligence, seriousness and a wonderful cast. Anthony Hopkins, who really is an acting genius, plays an exorcist and the very talented Colin O’Donoghue plays the skeptical young priest who comes to watch and learn. Rutger Hauer also turns in a good cameo as O’Donoghue’s grim Dad and Alice Braga is dynamite looking and very believable as a journalist.
The fine performances, smart dialogue and unflinchingly serious approach to the question of possession kept me watching the picture. Also, like Emily Rose, the film is “suggested by” true events, which is kind of interesting in and of itself.
Unfortunately, when it was over, I felt it didn’t really reach anyplace fresh and the ending seemed pretty much a foregone conclusion. Made me want to watch Emily Rose again though. And I’m glad someone out there is using genre storytelling to explore interesting issues in an intelligent way.
Better than the critics said it was, watchable and occasionally spooky, but not great.