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Feature
Inspired by true events, this supernatural thriller follows a seminary student (Colin O'Donoghue) sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Only when sent to apprentice with legendary Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), who has performed thousand of exorcisms, does his armor of skepticism begin to fall. Drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas's skill, the young seminarian glimpses a phenomenon science can't explain or control--and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.

Rite, The
The concept for the story here is based upon the novel 'The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist' by journalist Matt Baglio, but calling The Rite "inspired by true events" as the marketing for the film states is a bit of a stretch. Baglio, a nominal Catholic living in Italy as a freelance journalist, heard of a course being offered at the Vatican entitled "Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation" and became curious on the subject enough that he registered for the course. His experiences and those of fellow American Father Gary Thomas formed the basis of a novel which takes a look at exorcism that explains what the Catholic Church really teaches about possession, the experiences of both the priest and victim, and the role of an exorcist in today's society. Equally compelling is that it is also the story of how each man's faith was strengthened and renewed as a result.

The Rite eschews much of its source's substance and uses only the existence of the Vatican's exorcism school as the jumping off point for a piece of fiction, suffering greatly in the process. With the exception of a prolonged exorcism scene midway though it isn't particularly scary enough to earn its horror film labeling, and the questions and affirmations of faith and the actual science detailed in the novel take a backseat to the more traditional and fictional tropes seen in every picture covering the subject since The Exorcist. The result is rather half-baked and an experience that isn't satisfying as either a work of horror or drama.

Rite, The
There are a few good points here though. Like Mikael Håfström's earlier effort 1408, The Rite is a good looking film that drips with atmosphere and takes advantage of its locations, which makes up for some of the deficits in the story. The acting is also strong across the board with one major exception. Anthony Hopkins heightens the material here much in the same manner as he did in 2010's tepid The Wolfman, and the supporting cast featuring Rutger Hauer, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds and Toby Jones make the most of their limited involvement in the picture, but Colin O'Donoghue's monotone lead performance nearly counteracts the efforts of everyone else.

To the best of my knowledge there has never been a film that treats exorcism in a matter of fact manner that takes science and psychology into consideration which is something that The Rite starts out doing before quickly devolving into the run of the mill thriller that it ends up becoming. The much more interesting film to make would have been a closer adaptation of the novel, but somewhere between the page and screen this notion is largely abandoned.

Rite, The
Video
The Rite has a great gothic look to it, and the resulting video on this Blu-ray makes for an exceptional viewing experience. The 2.40:1, 1080p AVC encoded transfer handles the dark photography of the film nicely with deep blacks while at the same time offering nice detail, especially in the background where the Italian architecture shines. Being a newer theatrically released film, the print used doesn't suffer from any sort of damage such as dirt or debris that might pop up with older films. Overall this is a very strong presentation of the film.

Audio
I was quite surprised with the robustness of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track presentation here. I was expecting a much quieter film with minimal use of surround effects that ramped up during more frightening parts, but The Rite rustles with directional effects during everything from crowded sequences of street walking to its exorcism scenes and makes strong use of the LFE channel whenever possible for the majority of the picture. It also manages to do so without the expense of making the dialogue unintelligible, something that is greatly needed during the long passages of dialogue throughout.

Rite, The
Extras
From a technical perspective the disc's audio and video didn't disappoint, but the high definition extras included are rather brief. The main feature included here is a quick eight-minute featurette entitled 'The Rite: Solider of God' which features interviews with Father Gary Thomas who was the subject of the novel and technical advisor on the film. In it he mainly discusses his training and personal experiences which is interesting, but the feature doesn't offer up much insight into the making of the picture.

Rounding out the extras are a series of seven deleted scenes that offer a bit more characterisation and exposition that are interesting but not necessary and wisely cut from the film and an alternate ending that while billed as "Chilling" is anything but. A DVD copy of the film as well as a digital copy are also included and the disc features BD-Live functionality, but no extras specific to this film were present at the time of review.

Rite, The
Overall
There has been a spate of exorcism related horror films released over the past few years, and if it had stuck to the source material The Rite could have stood out from the crowd as an intelligent thriller. Unfortunately instead it'll just be known as 'the one with Anthony Hopkins' and filed away with the rest of the Emily Roses of the film world. Warner's presentation of the film on Blu-ray is strong with a great audio and video presentation, though the disc is lacking in the extras department. Overall this might rate a rental for those inclined to the genre, but those wanting to see Hopkins in a horror setting are better off going with Audrey Rose or Richard Attenborough's Magic.


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