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Doubt - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD / Academy Award nominated DVD review
DOUBT Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 5 stars
Featuring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Joseph Foster
Director: John Patrick Shanley Studio: Miramax
DVD release: 07 April 2009 Runtime: 104 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 1.85:1, Audio tracks (DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround - English; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround - French), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish), From Stage to Screen, Scoring Doubt, The Sisters of Charity, Feature commentary w/ dir. John Patrick Shanley, The Cast of Doubt

It is so fitting that the school in this film seems like an enclosed fortress, set in the middle of Bronx of 1964. That would suit Sister Aloysius, the fearsome principle of St. Nicholas Catholic grade school, just fine. The fewer times the outside world, with its ballpoint pens and, even worse, secular Christmas music, meddles with her isolated spot on Earth, the better. When a young, progressive new priest dares bring these new ideas, and then some, into her school, there will be Hell to pay.

Doubt (a perfect title), is basically a war of ideas between the rigid, unmovable Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep, nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her role) and the much-too-progressive-for-her-tastes Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). When suspicion arises that Father Flynn has perhaps committed the ultimate crime for a priest (molestation), she instantly decides he is guilty and seizes on the chance to destroy him. She never wavers, regardless of her inability to prove anything, or that younger teacher Sister James, who brought the situation to her attention, begins to believe she was mistaken in her initial suspicions. Sister Aloysius still goes in for the kill (viewers should note Streep's first appearance in the film: she seems to swoop down like a black bird of prey onto a child napping in church).

The film features brilliant performances, but that is to be expected from this cast. Along with the legendary Streep is Hoffman, arguably one of the best two or three film actors working today. Streep remains icy cold throughout the entire film but does show a few cracks in the armor at key times. Hoffman is also amazingly subtle: it clearly seems he is innocent on the surface, yet moments in his performance suggest something might have happened, if not with the boy in question, then sometime in his past. Is there a slight chance Sister Aloysius might be right?

Amy Adams gives a strong performance as the well-intentioned but obviously intimidated Sister James, who quickly regrets having instigated the whole situation. Even stronger is Viola Davis as the mother of the boy in question. Though Davis is only onscreen roughly 10 minutes, her work in perhaps the film's key scene brought her an Oscar nomination. Her exchange with Streep - not only regarding what she feels about the situation, but what she needs from it - is at once sad and somewhat shocking.

Like many strong stories, Doubt is clearly set in particular time and place but raises questions pertinent today. A new way of thinking was clashing with the old, yet the old would not give way without a fight. The ending doesn't answer all our questions, nor should it: wrapping everything up in a tidy little bow is not what the film is about. There seems to be a "winner" at the end of the film, but do they really win? If winning only brings doubt, is it worth it?

Blu-ray features:
The film features cinematography by the great Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men). The Blu-ray brings out his work in crystal clear form. One highlight: the way the blinding sunlight through a window in Sister Aloysius's office shines in Father Flynn's face as on an accused man being interrogated.

  • Doubt, from Stage to Screen - featuring Director Shanley and the main stars of the film.
  • Features on scoring and casting Doubt
  • Feature commentary by director John Patrick Shanley
  • The Sisters of Charity - an insightful discussion with nuns from the actual school Shanley attended (one has been a teacher there for 71 years). They primarily discuss their daily routine and how Vatican II (which occurred around the time the film is set) affected them.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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