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Filled with excellent performances that garnered four of the film’s five Academy Award Nominations, DOUBT ($35) is a highly entertaining film based upon John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play. DOUBT is set in 1964, and takes place at a Catholic Church and adjoining school in the Bronx, New York. A liberally minded parish priest named Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) opens the film with a sermon on the nature of doubt. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) is the conservatively minded principal of the school who discusses unusual nature of the sermon with her fellow nuns, and then asks them to let her know if they have noticed any unusual behavior from the priest… something that might give him cause to preach about the nature of doubt.

Doubt arises when Sister James (Amy Adams) becomes suspicious of the relationship between Father Flynn and Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), the school's only black student, who also happens to be an altar boy. It seems that Donald displayed odd behavior in class after a private meeting between himself and Father Flynn. Sister James brings her concerns to Sister Aloysius, who pursues the perceived, but never proven, impropriety between the boy and the priest with great vigor. Taking her concerns to Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis), Sister Aloysius finds herself being rebuffed by the boy’s mother, who wants the matter dropped, because she feels that to do so is the best interest of her son.

While some might expect it to be, DOUBT is definitely not a movie manufactured from today’s tabloid headlines of pedophile priests molesting alter boys. The story is one about belief and doubt, and how one’s personal convictions might cloud their judgment… thus convincing them to believe something that may or may not be true without any hard evidence to back it up. As a movie, DOUBT has been opened up to include real locations, but the film sometimes reveals some of the more stagy aspects of its origins. Still, it is the performances that make DOUBT one of the most compelling films of 2008, especially Viola Davis’ heart wrenching turn. The cast of DOUBT also includes Alice Drummond, Audrie J. Neenan, Susan Blommaert, Carrie Preston, John Costelloe, Lloyd Clay Brown, Joseph Foster, Bridget Megan Clark and Mike Roukis.

Miramax Home Entertainment has made DOUBT available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The presentation is generally excellent and perfectly represents the cold, austere quality of the film’s original cinematography. Everything appears sharp and highly dimensional. Fine details such as textures, individual hairs and the lines in the actors’ faces are usually well rendered. The color scheme favors a cooler, wintry palette and desaturated hues. Blacks are inky and the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast and shadow detail are pretty much first rate. The elements from which DOUBT has been mastered are virtually perfect. Mild grain maintains a film-like quality.

DOUBT is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. For the most part, the sound design is dialogue driven, but mix is highly atmospheric and makes use of the outlying channels to convey convincing sonic environments. Plenty of little sounds are spread through the soundstage and there is a nice enveloping quality to the track. The very nature of the material precludes this track from being a sonic showcase, but it is very nicely done nonetheless. Fidelity is strong and Howard Shore’s fine musical score reaps the benefit. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the disc, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with writer/director John Patrick Shanley. Featurettes include From Stage To Screen (nineteen minutes), The Cast Of Doubt (fourteen minutes), Scoring Doubt (five minutes) and Sisters Of Charity (five minutes). Some Bonus Trailers close out the supplements.

DOUBT is a superbly acted film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The Blu-ray presentation is not showy, but is an excellent transcription of the film to high definition. Very highly recommended.



Doubt [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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