Doubt offers up no answers. You know as much leaving the film as you did going in. And that's not a bad thing. Like Mamet's Oleanna, the strength of the film is in how it makes you feel. The internal struggles that you suffer as you try to finish the story in your head so you can sleep at night. What bothered me is something I like to call Movie Manipulation. I'm trying to trademark that phrase so don't go throwing it about at cocktail parties because I'll come after you.
Movie Manipulation (remember, it's being trademarked) comes in many forms. Could be narration. Could be a music score. Techniques that are used to either enhance your movie experience, or to fill in the gaping holes left by a bad script or bad direction. As a movie watcher, the director wants to make me aware I'm watching a film or not. It's not uncommon for a film to have the character break down the third wall and speak directly to the audience. This sometimes works and it sometimes doesn't. I think you lose a little something when you tip your hat to the audience. I don't always like being reminded I'm watching a movie. Sometimes I just want to watch a really good story unfold.
Of course this doesn't happen in Doubt. Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't turn to the camera and say "can you believe this shit? This crotchety old nun thinks I'm hitting it with one of my students." But Shanley reminds me I'm watching a film in the way he uses the camera. Specifically, the dutch angle. It's used several times throughout the movie and each time I saw it, I was suddenly sucked out of the story and reminded I'm watching a movie. And then suddenly it's a battle between me and Shanley right there in the theater. He throws his dutch angle at me and I counter with a "hellz no, you're not going to make me uneasy with your dutch angle. How simple do you think I am?"
The dutch angle is usually reserved for a Batman TV show. Or a Sam Raimi movie. These are fun movies where manipulation takes many forms and anything goes. In short, it's kind of a joke. Almost an homage of sorts. Only why? It's here that Shanley should have just taken a page out of his stage direction book. It's page 26 and it clearly states DON'T FUCK WITH THE SCENE. JUST LET IT HAPPEN.
Shanley was trying to inject tension in a scene where all he had to do was let the actors do it for me. Think of the coin flip scene in No Country For Old Men. Can you imagine a dutch angle there? It was completely unnecessary because the tension was created by the actors. By the action. There was no reason for the director to do anything except get great performances out of his actors. So why Shanley would decide it necessary to add any drama to a scene involving Seymour and Streep is beyond me. It's like he took off his white glove and slapped them both across the face for failing him. Only he failed them. He was the one who had doubt. And we all suffered from it.