The Pope's Exorcist Review (Podcast EP 16 + Video & Article)

April 14, 2023

Russell Crowe in the Pope's Exorcist  

Russell Crowe (of Gladiator fame) is an unlikely Fr. Gabriel Amorth. But he portray Fr. Amorth in the newly released film, "The Pope's Exorcist" anyway. 

The late Fr. Amorth was chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome and the founder of International Association of Exorcists. He wrote a number of wonderful books and I have read all of them. In other words, I'm a huge fan. So I was prepared to hate Crowe's portrayal of the saintly Fr. Amorth. But I actually didn't. 

In my opinion, Crowe did a good job overall. He made the occasional joke (as did the real Fr. Amorth) and, to my untrained ear, his Italian accent (and Latin) was good. He did not try to be Fr. Amorth but he did try to build a likable character and I think he succeeded. 

Anti-Catholic Elements in the Film

My main concern about the film was not that it would be badly acted but that it would be strongly anti-Catholic, in the way of some other movies (like Prey for the Devil). And I wasn't the only the only one who expressed that concern 

Prior to the release of the film, the International Association of Exorcists made this observation on the trailer for "The Pope's Exorcist:"

...the Vatican environments, painted with the usual proven range of chiaroscuro colors, give the film a "Da Vinci Code" effect, for instill in the public the usual doubt: who is the real enemy? The devil or the ecclesiastical "power"? - Comunicato Stampa / Press Release – About the trailer for the film: “The Pope's Exorcist” (The International Association of Exorcists)

There WAS a Vatican conspiracy storyline in the film, as I discuss in my podcast episode, below. But it was focused mostly on the past. Also, as part of the larger plot of the movie, some clergy opposed Fr. Amorth because they didn't believe in evil spirits (or even necessarily evil). But the movie did not suggest that these clergy were the majority. 

While the trailer for "The Pope's Exorcist" did seem to suggest a very strong anti-Vatican conspiracy, it turned out to be a relatively minor plot point. The actual movie, in my opinion, was not wildly anti-Catholic. And I suspect that if any of the members of the International Association of Exorcists watch it, they will probably agree.

But they were right about the special effects.

The Problem with Special Effects

We conclude these brief considerations with a reference to the so-called "special effects" , inevitable in every film dedicated to the theme of diabolical possession. As has already happened in other films, everything is exaggerated, with striking physical and verbal manifestations, typical of horror films. Now, this way of narrating Don Amorth's exorcistic experience, in addition to being contrary to historical reality, distorts and falsifies what is truly lived and experienced during the exorcism of truly possessed people whom we, Catholic exorcists, celebrate according to the directives given by the Church. In addition, he is offensive towards the state of suffering in which those who are victims of an extraordinary action of the devil find themselves. - Comunicato Stampa / Press Release – About the trailer for the film: “The Pope's Exorcist” (The International Association of Exorcists)

Sadly, this seems to be what the public wants or what Hollywood thinks it wants. The biggest problem I have with this type of film is that it portrays the devil not necessarily as more powerful than he is in fact, but as far less subtle. 

There is a real danger in believing that Satan is obvious or clumsy - which we will discuss this in future posts.

In summary, I did not hate "The Pope's Exorcist" and wouldn't tell anyone (over 18 and not triggered by cursing and violence) that they shouldn't watch it. But I would encourage them to read what the real Fr. Amorth had to say about Satan.

To listen to my full review on the movie including some discussion of the sacramental of exorcism please check out the podcast below or find my podcast "New Age To Catholic" on most popular podcast apps.

Or, if you prefer, you can watch video episode of the podcast below (and follow my channel if so inclined):

  • To read two of my favorite books by Fr. Amorth, please check out An Exorcist Explains the Demonic or Father Amorth: My Battle Against Satan (affiliate links).
  • To read the original statement by the International Society of Exorcists or support it in its very important work please visit their website (there is an English option for this particular page).
  • If you speak Italian, you can watch the documentary the Association discusses in their press release here
  • You can read my review of Prey for the Devil here


Please note, this post includes Amazon affiliate links. This means that, if you purchase through one my links, I may receive a small commission at not cost to you.

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