22 December 2008

Review: Doubt

Genre: Drama

John Patrick Shanley's to-film adaptation of his successful Broadway play tends to make all the necessary refigurements a successful adaptation would: Compiling a brilliant cast and crew with a smart and more minutely focused director's hand, the film Doubt emerges as so far the best film this year (in my opinion).
Bookended by two powerful, postive and contrapositive, shots emphasizing the gravity and the levity & the shift in argument toward resolution enacted over the course of the film, Doubt brings into full focus, by noticeably foibling out of focus the traditionally necessary facts of the plot, the hot debate between morality and legality, principle and practice, and what is good and what is right. Flourishing in this greatly effected grey area of incommodous ambiguity for the spectator, the film deftly winds itself around the biting and tense issue at its heart, wisely without ever touching it directly. Restating in ways both complex and simple the premise of its title, it elaborates a tight actors' piece, which through the gifts of editor, cinematographer, and director becomes so much more than just that - a feat and effectuation diametrically opposed to that of the relevant crew of this year's Frost/Nixon.
For Doubt takes into its holy advantage the benefit, not only of great actors - Ms. Streep, Mr. Hoffman, Ms. Adams, and Ms. Davis, we applaud you - but also of great technicians. Roger Deakins, cinematographer who boldly and powerfully set up those shots that I previously mentioned, takes on a casual, technically imperfect framing of the camera that is out of the majority in its impeccable rightness here; it allows for uncanny smoothness and candor in its approach, without sacrificing potency in its colors, textures, and lighting - a feat truly not easily accomplished. The editor, Dylan Tichenor who has been smart editor of such great films as Magnolia (1999), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), and Brokeback Mountain (2005), lives up to his past and keeps the action and momentum at a clean and brisk pace, strapping the argument in key scenes in which strapping was necessary and keeping smooth edges in the narrative that could have otherwise become so acutely angular. And director, Mr. Shanley who adapted his style as well as his play in its transference from the stage to the screen, festoons his already handy work with some lovely nuances that intensify the diametry always fiercely in play.
The one argument I have against the film is that it failed to raise a significant amount of drama in its climax - a peak that was more anti-climax than climax, in deference to the greater argument than the plot. However, sacrifices must be made in cases as this one, and I would much rather have the film as it stands now, anti-climactic and powerful, than the film as it might have been then, climactic and hollow.
So, for bravura and staid objectivity filigreed with brilliant touches of a keen intimacy with its subjects, I proudly give Doubt a

Grade: A-, well done - the Dutch-paintings' influence does read beautifully by the way.

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