The Rite focuses on a young man named Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) who is studying to be a priest. Michael, the son of a very severe mortician (Rutger Hauer), is deeply troubled by his own lack of conviction. Though he is considering abandoning his pursuit of priesthood, the reality sinks in that if he changes academic direction, his scholarship will convert to approximately $100,000 of student loan debt. He is offered the chance to study exorcism in Rome. This is where The Rite briefly becomes compelling, as it becomes a sort of "school for exorcists" story. Michael challenges his instructors with probing skepticism. Then he meets Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins) and his perspective changes.
Your level of enjoyment of The Rite may be somewhat dependent upon your own views of demonic possession. The movie is billed as having been inspired by true events. But as anyone with even the simplest grasp of common sense should know, demonic possession is a ludicrous concept used by certain religions to scare their followers. That doesn't render movies about exorcism impossible to enjoy. The obvious point of reference for The Rite is the 1973 classic, The Exorcist. That vastly superior (though ultimately just as hokey) film is directly referenced at one point by Father Lucas. During the performing of a low-key exorcism, Michael asks, "That's all there is to it?" Father Lucas replies dryly, "You were expecting spinning heads and pea soup?"
The problem with The Rite is that even though it initially approaches exorcism with a wary, questioning point of view, it ends up being all about spinning heads after all. The philosophical questions that are raised by Michael early on are completely dismissed in favor of hysterical, CGI-laden depictions of possession. Hopkins plays Father Lucas as a strikingly casual exorcist. He's just a guy doing a very unusual job in a very matter of fact way. But as the movie becomes less interested in subtlety, Hopkins' performance becomes overly hammy. He's still fun to watch, but his performance devolves, along with the whole movie, into serious silliness.