Synopsis: In The Rite Anthony Hopkins plays Father Lucas Trevant, an accomplished exorcist. He is assigned to teach a young seminarian, Michael Kovok (Colin O’Donoghue), “the rite”. Kovok is plagued by doubt. He is not sure about his personal faith and he is especially unsure about demonic activity, often seeing it as something that should be addressed by a psychiatrist rather than a priest. The story mixes motifs of demonology, religion, faith, and doubt.
Positives: Hopkins does a fine job playing an old priest who has wrestled with his own faith over the years and is therefore a perfect mentor for the young seminarian. That being said, Hopkins rarely fails at being convincing in a given role. O’Donoghue is even better in my opinion in that his character draws you into his world of doubts. It is a fascinating topic for the religiously/spiritually minded. It forces one to wrestle with the relationship between the supernatural and that which is natural, though uncomfortable (e.g. schizophrenia).
Negatives: I found the ending a bit cheesy, though I won’t comment on it here. I have talked to people who have read the book and where the film departs I rather that it had not. One must be careful not to equate the film’s storytelling either with the book on which it is based or the Catholic doctrine which it depicts.
For a more thorough, theological analysis read Daniel James Levy’s review.