By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on Deborah E. Lipstadt’s book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, Denial recounts the events surrounding the British lawsuit between author David Irving and Lipstadt, who, in another one of her books, labeled Irving as a Holocaust denier and discredited his evidence used to support his claims. Adapted by screenwriter David Hare, and director Mick Jackson, the film version probably does offer a more dramatized version of the events, but effectively does so with writing that is highly resonant of recent events and issues, and outstanding acting by the cast. Racism is a problem that is part of our human history, but one that has not completely gone away. This true story is evidence that this cancer even threatens to erase those dark chapters of history, from which people must learnRachel Weisz stars as Deborah E. Lipstadt, a historian whose books focus on the Holocaust and her findings, discoveries, and experiences regarding those who deny that the Holocaust even existed. Her 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, highlights the writing and statements made by David Irving (Timothy Spall), whose work conversely offers “evidence” that the Holocaust is a fallacy. Irving strikes back vehemently by suing Lipstadt for libel. Because the trial will take place in Britain, Lipstadt seeks the legal counsel of Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) and their team. The case that follows becomes a high profile, passionate battle for the truth.
David Hare’s screenplay does an exceptional job of balancing the court room drama, the procedural work and research that goes into a British lawsuit, and the dark history of the Holocaust. The overall result is a film that is haunting, infuriating, and even entertaining. The character development is mostly solid, save for the Irving characterization that falters a bit with its less dimensional villainy. Irving may be an ignorant, racist man, but some of the dramatic choices by Hare, Jackson, and Spall feel exaggerated for dramatic effect.
Spall does have his great moments, though, as does the rest of the cast who deliver fine work. Tom Wilkinson has the perfect eloquence and gusto for attorney Richard Rampton. He also superbly portrays the more pensive strategist who totally immerses himself into his work to win for Lipstadt. Weisz absolutely shines as the brash and fiery Deborah E. Lipstadt, who, as a person of Jewish faith and ethnicity, has a highly personal connection with the Holocaust and its history. Weisz, not only perfectly adopts a New York accent and attitude, she beautifully conveys the passion and pain that Lipstadt feels for her work, her history, and her culture.
In light of current events regarding racism, ignorance, and the egomaniacs at the heart of these problems, this movie is highly resonant and relevant. People need to remember the seriously horrific sins of human history, and younger generations also need to have this history and stories available for education purposes. In order to move forward to a better tomorrow, humanity should never forget or cover-up the mistakes from the past. This movie and Lipstadt’s story is a testament to that ideology.