This latest American movie with demonic possession as a major theme (at least a dozen have been widely released in half as many years), The Rite introduces the exorcist, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), as a workaday healer tending to the daily needs of Roman families.
The plot is propelled by Lucas' initiation of a young American apostate, Michael (Colin O'Donoghue), into the brotherhood of exorcists. Efforts to defamiliarize the material stop well before Michael has stepped up for his part in a spiritual tug of war. O'Donoghue doesn't demonstrate the authority to throw someone out of his house, much less dispel Satan's minions. His nemesis demon comes off as a nasty older sister.
Michael clings to his skepticism in the face of the inexplicable, and the viewer is never brought onto his seesaw of doubt. His motivations remain arbitrary and inscrutable, right down to his entry into the seminary. This is brought up by a number of characters, who interpret his implausible career decision as A Sign. It is — of bad writing.