Release Date:Director/Writer: Cinematographer:Starring:Studio/Run Time:Rocky adaptation thrives on play's ideasThe early scenes of Doubt glide past so smoothly that it’s easy to miss the seditious currents underneath.
For a film that readily awakens its cast’s more flamboyant instincts, Doubt thrives most on such sequences, shrouded in stricken ambiguity. The film unravels a duel of truth and morality between that priest and nun, she convinced he has developed an improper bond with an altar boy despite his emphatic denials. Doubt proceeds with nasty indictments and shadowy revelations as the case becomes increasingly overheated and bizarre, including an encounter with the altar boy’s mother (Viola Davis, a knockout) that opens another disturbing realm of possibility.
Writer-director John Patrick Shanley adapts his hugely celebrated play with more reverence for its searing ideas than the new medium before him. The action is deliberate but inert, with a numbness at odds with the emotional intensity inherent in a cast headed by Streep and Hoffman. And yet the riveting complexity of the would-be scandal remains as potent as ever. The film, like the play, baits the audience with big ideas and then weathers them down to a simple question—did he or didn’t he?—that is far larger than it seems. Whatever its failings as a film, Doubt's fierce ideological textures leave a pronounced unease that's difficult to shake.