Release Date: September 9th, 2005 by Screen Gems.
The Cast: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Carpenter
Directed by Scott Derrickson.
BASIC PREMISE: After Emily Rose (Carpenter) dies during an exorcism given by Father Moore (Wilkinson), Erin Bruner, a lawyer (Linney) helps the priest prove that he is not guilty of negligent homicide.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: What makes this film really work are the excellent production values and the very strong acting from Linney, Wilkinson, and, especially Carpenter. Fortunately, the first scene that includes the titular exorcism does not reveal any details, other than screams, that show what precisely is going on. That leaves a great mystery for the rest of the film--- as well as for Erin whose difficult mission is to prove that Father Moore was not harming Emily but rather unsuccessfully trying to exorcize her because she was possessed. The majority of the film is a courtroom drama, but what makes it even more interesting is that Erin has supernatural experiences throughout the trial but also struggles to prove it. The prosecution, led by lawyer Ethan Thomas (Scott), has a much easier point to prove because it is based solely on science and medicine: Emily was psychotic and required medicine, which she stopped taking during the time of her possession. Erin's experiences become stranger and even scary at times--obviously, they parallel Emily's experiences with the devil, i.e. smelling something burning at 3:00 A.M. This is the kind of movie where every little detail counts and, eventually, makes sense in the end. There are a few twists that are slightly contrived, such as sudden death that is reminiscent of a scene from Final Destination--another movie that deals with the supernatural. Ultimately, the real conflict is the tug-of-war between religion and science, not the prosecution and defense. The fact that this movie is based on a true story makes it even more shocking.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The battle between religion and science has existed for many years. In many ways, they are like oil and vinegar. However, Erin gives a very interesting speech about the importance of opening your mind to alternative theories---to recognize that there's at least a remote possibility of something supernatural. The 18th Century skeptic philosopher David Hume once wrote about how miracles don't exist unless you have physical proof of them, but even then it would be hard to share the proof with others. Sometimes, belief is all we have to lead the way. Fortunately, in this film, the defense does find physical evidence, but it not strong enough for anyone to come to any solid conclusions.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Predictable ending.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
THE BOTTOM LINE: A very suspenseful, chilling movie with very strong performances. Throughout the trial, it makes you think about controversial issues such as religion versus science.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "E" Menu