Alex Bernier (Ledger) is a priest. And not just any priest. He's a trained exorcist, raised in the Catholic Church by another priest and his mentor after his parents died. He is also hopelessly in love with Mara (Sossamon), a woman once tried to kill him. Bound by the oaths of his order, he dares not pursue her.
But she pursues him. All the way to Rome, where Alex is summoned after his mentor, Dominic (Francesco Carneluttias), is found dead. Worse, though, Dominic was declared a heretic just before his death, and has been ex-communicated. Alex refuses to let this happen, and is joined in Rome by another friend and fellow disciple of Dominic's, Father Thomas (Addy).
In Rome, Thomas and Alex encounter several demons Dominic apparently summoned before his death. It's apparent Dominic was attempting to atone for something, but they are at a loss for details until they are led to a mysterious man called William Eden (Benno Fürmann).
Eden is eternal, not quite a demon but no longer just a man. He is a Sin Eater, the only person on Earth capable of forgiving men of their sins and allowing them entrance into Heaven...even after they have been ex-communicated. Thomas believes Eden is evil, a perversion against the Church, but Alex is torn. Eden convinces him to give up his order to pursue Mara.
This film provides examples of:
- Badass Preacher - Alex and Thomas both qualify
- Broken Bird - Mara, who is seriously messed up, so much so she once tried to kill AlexDetective: Is says here she tried to kill you at an - exercise class?Alex: No... at an exorcism.
- The Call Has Bad Reception - Alex is a nice guy and a trained exorcist who believes he's being tasked to destroy the Sin Eater. Unfortunately, the manual he's using is actually on how to become a Sin Eater.
- The Chessmaster - Eden, full stop. He manipulates Dominic into raising Alex, going so far as to plan Alex's parents' deaths. He then manipulates Alex into doing everything he wants of him.
- Christianity Is Catholic - justified in that it's about a sect within the Catholic Church
- Creepy Child - we get two, in the form of the two demons haunting Alex
- Death Seeker - Eden
- Embarrassing Tattoo - Thomas has one on his ankle. Which allows Alex to identify him at a crucial moment.
- A God Am I - Eden seemed to feel this at first. Alex does, too, when he first absolves a sin.Alex: I performed the ceremony. I found Mara dying. I did it to set her free.Eden: How did it feel?Alex: Like I was God.
- The Heretic - Dominic is called this, and thus ex-communicated
- Heroic BSoD - Alex has one after Mara dies
- Inner Monologue - Alex gets one towards the end of the filmAnd now it is I. I have been blessed and cursed... for now I possess the keys to the kingdom of heaven. I will forgive those who deserve freedom. I will damn those who have damned themselves. I will learn to live after love has died. I am the sin eater.
- Irish Priest - Thomas
- Never Suicide - Mara, who's death was made to look like suicide by Eden so Alex would perform the ritual to absolve her sins
- Never Trust a Trailer - The trailer makes it sound like the movie is entirely about corruption within the church, with no mention made of the Sin Eater.
- Religion Is Magic - Or at least, it can make you immortal, allow you to summon and vanquish demons, and absolve people's sins by eating some bread and salt.
- Religious Horror
- Sinister Minister - Driscoll
- Spiritual Antithesis: The film is this to A Knight's Tale. It shares the writer/director and three stars, but that's where the similarities end, and the tone is the exact opposite.
- Takes One to Kill One - Apparently the only way to kill a Sin Eater is to then become one
- Thanatos Gambit - Eden's plan to get Alex to become a Sin Eater.
- These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know - how Thomas views the rituals surrounding the Sin Eater and his powers
- Tomato in the Mirror - Alex, in the end
- Who Wants to Live Forever? - Eden