MOVIE RATING: 4 stars (B+)
(Updated May 25, 2012)
I just finished watching a fantastic film for those of us who love “talkie” movies. Doubt (2008) is extremely well written, well directed, and well acted. Another great Miramax masterpiece! I’m just disappointed in myself for missing this movie back in 2008 when it came out. But having confessed and repented by seeing it on Starz in HD, I forgive myself! I give the film 3.5 out of 5 stars. The film is a tense mind puzzle that teases you along like a greyhound chasing a rabbit, with the hope of getting the prize. And yet the film’s payoff at the end is just like at the racetrack…not quite what you wanted, but enough to satisfy you with having run the race. I respect director John Patrick Shanley for his choice to let the built-up tension in the film fade more with a whimper instead of a bang. The obvious choice, and probably the one I would make, would be to bring the film to the dramatic “showy” climax that you expect. It took guts on Shanley’s part to instead choose the more sophisticated and subtle ending that he did. It’s upon reflection on the movie that I get the “bang” from it…reliving the great tense scenes over and over in my mind and imagining various alternatives.
The above may sound a little cryptic, but I don’t want to give away the story of the film. This film is all about the story and the characters. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis are absolutely brilliant in their intertwined roles within the parish. Hoffman is the Priest, Streep is the Principal of the school, Adams is a teacher within the school, and Davis is the mother of the first and only black student. All four of them bring their A-game to their performances and rightly deserved the four Oscar nominations they got for acting. I’m surprised none of them won, but it was competitive year as always.
Doubt was a very well designed and photographed production, it’s austerity is true to its subject matter and setting within a Bronx Catholic church in 1964. I never once questioned when or where I was. I easily escaped into this film’s time period. The cinematography by DP Roger Deakins is just as we have come to expect from him and his other great work in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), House of Sand and Fog (2003), Thirteen Days (2000), Kundun (1997), Courage Under Fire (1996), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and Thunderheart (1992)…to name just a few of his 50+ movies! He’s by far one of the most talented and prolific directors of photography in the business.
What I really love about Doubt is that it asks many questions and it gets you to ask yourself many questions. And you don’t always get answers from the movie or yourself. But it’s a thought provoking movie that looks at a number of important issues in our culture from several points of view…from the time period of the 1960s when this film is set, right to the present. It asks questions about religion and spirituality, about gossip, about school…and it all feels as relevant today as I’m sure it was in the 60s and probably earlier. I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict that this movie holds up well for many years to come. I’ll be interested to revisit it down the road in 5-10 years and see what new questions (and/or answers) I get from it.
Check out details on this film and its excellent Blu-ray presentation at Blu-ray.com.