Denial (2016)

6.5/10 by 219 users

Acclaimed writer and historian Deborah E. Lipstadt must battle for historical truth to prove the Holocaust actually occurred when David Irving, a renowned denier, sues her for libel.

Release Date:September 30, 2016
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Genres:Drama, History
Production Company:BBC Films, Participant Media, Krasnoff Foster Productions, Shoebox Films
Production Countries:United Kingdom, United States of America
Director:Mick Jackson, Kim Armitage
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:london england, based on novel, holocaust, court case, historian, biography, based on true story, new yorker, 21st century, reference to heinrich himmler
  • Had so much potential - like watching a trainwreck
    February 1, 2017

    "Denial" attempts to bring to the screen two of the Oscars' favorite genres: courtroom & Holocaust dramas. The story is prime: that of a woman who was taken to court over her statements about a Holocaust denier, claims that allegedly tarnished his reputation as a notable historian. The woman in question, Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), an American, was brought to an English court in the late 1990's to prove her case: that the denier, David Irving (Timothy Spall), knowingly altered the facts to support his own beliefs. In America, the defense is innocent until proved guilty. In England, the burden of proof in fact falls on the defendant. Stuck in court with years of preparation, Lipstadt simply has to prove one thing: that the Holocaust actually happened.

    Thus is the set up for what could have been a brilliant movie about thinking minds and the the nature of historians and differing views. In a time when the Holocaust is in danger of becoming a clich├ęd topics to garner awards and praise, the trailer for "Denial" looked nothing short of eye-opening.

    History is a broad topic, breathtaking when captured effectively and dreadfully dull when it goes wrong. This is a movie where they got it wrong. Lipstadt (played by Weisz with perhaps the worst American accent we have seen on film in years) is the heroine this movie doesn't deserve. We meet her as a professor who teaches passionately about the nature of World War II and the losses it accrued. A Jew herself, the Holocaust is a passion of hers. People who refute evidence as candidly as David Irving are simply not worth her time. When faced with Irving, Lipstadt freezes, becomes argumentative, can't prove her point. The next time they meet is in court, where she promises that she will not testify. In order to win the case, she must remain impartial.

    Her defense team is made up of a team of lawyers and scholars, the leader of which is Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), who is a calculated criminal lawyer who knows his facts but can't grasp the emotions of the case itself. Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) is the would-be villain who wants to win the case but in the process loses all sense of respect for the survivors of such tragedy. It's a crack team, indeed.

    The problems with the movie are vast, but they are rooted in the simple fact that Timothy Spall as David Irving is simply the more compelling character, regardless of him being the villain. How wrong it is for someone to so plainly deny the events of the 1940's that led to millions of deaths, but Irving is played as a man who still lives honestly, presents plain facts, and seems to truly believe that he is in the right. Weisz on the other hand plays her role like a whiny girl who can't get a word in and is simply a hindrance to the plot. For a movie so devoted to this one woman's story, boy is she an annoying person to get to know.

    The court scenes themselves are small fragments of the 8-week trial that offer little insight into the actual arguments themselves. A brief snippet here and a tiny sentence here. The movie is padded so vigorously with fluff that by the time the verdict is read we are truly too tired to care and too distracted to have any real reaction. There is a good movie in here somewhere, and many will recall this case making the international news no more than 10 years ago. It would start with a new writer, a new cast, and a new director... In fact, with so many garbage movies being remade nowadays, here's a worthy candidate.