THE RITE (Mikael Hafstrom)
Mikael Hafstrom is a very complicated director for me. I found his DERAILED to be tacky and detached. 1408 is eerie, especially with the way he played Karen Carpenter over and over, but it moves too slow. I started noticing the improvement in Hafstrom's craft via SHANGHAI, which isn't really a great political gangster film but it delivers enough suspense and intrigue.
His latest film, THE RITE wins me over simply because of its unorthodox take on the issue of exorcism and the supernatural genre in general. As Anthony Hopkins' character Father Lucas puts it, there's no spinning heads and the like (a snide reference to THE EXORCIST?) so it may appear that the filmmakers wanted to play it safe. However, I saw it as a fair treatment of the subject. It neither condemns nor condones exorcism. The film lets you believe what you want to believe and respects your decision.
The relationship between Hopkins and Colin O' Donoghue who plays the young Father Kovak is dynamic and exciting to watch. Father Lucas's incidental mentor relationship to Father Kovak fleshes out the important issues that needs to be discussed about faith, the devil, and exorcism itself.
The addition of Alice Braga as the journalist Angelina who covers the exorcism course in Vatican mirrors the POV perspective of the film. We sit back and observe as the filmmakers present details that are a little closer to reality. What's accurate and what's not is out of our jurisdiction anymore because as far I'm concerned, the story limits itself on bending the supernatural genre by omitting the supernatural visual element, giving a more honest look at a phenomena that will continue to be debated upon for the times to come.
Here, Hafstrom's slow style in narrative build up works, because the mood is observatory, and the story's success rests on the tiny details, which were neatly presented.