The Rite looked like it would be a mixed bag right from the start. The film seemed to suffer the same fate many other films before it fell victim to and that's giving away too much of the storyline in the trailers. On top of that, it was a film that revolved around exorcism which is a subject that usually leads to disappointing results. Expectations would lead one to believe that The Rite would have enough momentum to reel you in only to drop the ball during its finale similar to last year's The Last Exorcism (except hopefully without the appearance of a neon red, glow in the dark fetus). Luckily, the film has a few surprises up its sleeve.
The cinematography in the film is probably the first thing you'll notice visually. The opening of the film makes things like dripping embalming fluid, a swing set on a playground, and an overturned shopping cart seem more interesting than they really are. Rain is an element used fairly often in the film to usually signify when something has gone wrong or is about to. Whether the camera is placed up high to make it seem like you're looking down on the cast from the heavens or down low as if you're looking up at them from the depths of the earth, the rain sequences in the film are definitely some of the most memorable due to the camera work.
This is probably a pretty obvious statement, but the film is worth seeing for Anthony Hopkins alone. It's not that Colin O'Donoghue does poorly since he certainly has a strong screen presence and does a fantastic job carrying the film, but Hopkins just manages to trump that while stealing every scene he's in and rightfully so. Father Lucas Trevant is the strongest and creepiest role Hopkins has played since Hannibal Lecter and his best role overall in years. It's just amazing seeing a man in his seventies give a performance that's this physical and this absorbing. Speaking of distinguished actors, it was nice seeing Rutger Hauer as well even if it was just for a small role.
The dream sequences and hallucinations in the film may have been my hands down favorite. I've always been a fan of the surreal, the imaginative, the creative, and the things that don't seem to make sense at first but gain meaning as the film or story progresses. I never thought I'd find myself intrigued with the actions of a mule or that frogs could have an even deeper meaning than what you're probably expecting, but The Rite accomplishes this very well.
Thankfully, The Rite delivers an exorcism film that is actually worth seeing. It'll probably be forgotten about in a year filled with so many blockbuster film releases, but considering that January and February are usually filled with such monstrous duds at the box office The Rite manages to surpass expectations. While the film does seem rather reminiscent of The Last Exorcism and borrows the atmosphere from the Heath Ledger film The Order, The Rite is actually a better experience overall. With an engrossing performance by Anthony Hopkins along with a fairly strong cast all around, its fantastic cinematography, surreal dream sequences, and a satisfying conclusion that doesn't hint at a sequel, The Rite is actually a surprisingly decent film all around.