So the Catholic Church issued an order for every diocese to have an exorcist and then backed off as soon as the media went viral over the notion that a worldwide cadre of demon hunters fighting a pea soup epidemic might not be the best image makeover for the Vatican. Mikael Hafstrom’s adaptation of The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio suggests that the Church didn’t completely put the kabosh on the plan to recruit and develop the exorcist black ops; they just pared down a bit.
In this film, Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) attends the seminary to escape life with his creepy mortician father (Rutger Hauer) but reaches graduation with a heart full of doubts about faith and God.
The head of the seminary, Father Matthew (Toby Jones) sends Michael to Rome to study exorcism, sensing that his skepticism will make him a prime candidate to join the elite team. Upon arriving at Vatican City, Michael meets up with a journalist (Alice Braga) covering the exorcist training and gets the chance to work alongside Father Lucas Trevant (Anthony Hopkins), the premier exorcist who, of course, happens to be an eccentric rogue.
Although The Rite is “inspired” by a true story, Hafstrom plays to audience expectations, presenting all of the standard tropes of demonic possession (dark veiny skin, impossible contortionist positions, gravelly voiced psychic pronouncements), but the anticlimactic finale speaks not only to Michael’s initial doubts but also those of the audience.
Evil exists, but after all this time wouldn’t it have a few more tricks up its sleeve? Grade: D-plus
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