John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt is, as you might assume, about the titular condition, as well as about its counterpoint Certainty, two big themes that the Pulitzer Prize-winning play-turned-film treats with intelligence and subtlety if not, ultimately, great insightfulness. As on the stage, Shanley’s story is a battle between Brooklyn Catholic school principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), an ascetic nun whose disdain for 1964’s modern notions is so extreme that it includes a hatred of hair clips and ballpoint pens, and Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a man of the cloth who believes the clergy are no better than the congregation and that compassion should guide the church. Driven by the suggestions of timid, acquiescing Sister James (Amy Adams), Sister Aloysius comes to think that Flynn is engaged in a sexually inappropriate relationship with the school’s first African-American student, Donald Muller (Joseph Foster), a suspicion that Shanley depicts as being partly reasonable (given a few strange turns of events) and partly the byproduct of her blind, intolerant hatred for what the progressive Flynn represents. Aside from awkward, often ill-fitting tilted camera angles, the writer/director adapts his stagey work with a modicum of aesthetic theatricality, instead handling his material’s series of tense philosophical debates about conviction and justice with a straightforwardness that places the focus squarely on his performers. The three leads, as well as Viola Davis as Donald’s mother, are all solid, with a ferocious Streep by and large avoiding turning the intimidating Aloysius into a caricature and Hoffman repeatedly lacing quiet, emotional expressions with ambiguousness. Still, Doubt works so diligently at setting up a scenario where truth can’t be definitively ascertained that its concluding argument about the universality (and reasonableness) of doubt – and the danger of rigid conviction – feels somewhat artificially inviolable, the filmmaker stacking the deck in favor of uncertainty to a degree that makes his final argument feel too easy.