Thursday, November 3, 2016

Movie Review #512: "Denial" (2016)

Director: Mick Jackson
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
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Jewish American historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is sued for liable in a British court when she accuses Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) of being a racist Hitler apologist who distorts the truth to support his view that the Holocaust was a hoax.

"Denial" is directed by Mick Jackson with a screenplay by David Hare. It is based on the book "History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier" by Deborah Lipstadt, the subject of this film. It stars Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz as the aforementioned Lipstadt, a historian who is sued for liable by Holocaust denier David Irving, played by Timothy Spall, after she says some unsavory things about him in her book entitled "Denying the Holocaust." He files his claim against her in a UK court, not an American one, which means the burden of proof falls on the defense, not the prosecution, essentially putting not only Irving's wild views on trial, but also, to an extent, putting the Holocaust on trial as well. Now, it is up to her and her legal team to prove David Irving is a racist Holocaust denying Hitler apologist who intentionally distorts the truth to support his own false claims.

This is an interesting courtroom drama about a very compelling case. Beyond showing the audience the intriguing aspects of said case using real dialogue from the Irving v. Lipstadt trial, "Denial" also addresses what the idea of free speech really means. Free speech doesn't mean you can regularly lie and spout your opinion off as fact without being called out on your bullshit. If someone says racist things, they can't cry foul when people call them a racist. When someone claims climate change isn't happening, they can't complain when people call them ignorant, and when someone claims the Holocaust didn’t happen, they can't whine when someone calls them a liar. You're more than welcome to say the Earth is flat or that Elvis is alive, but we reserve the right to call you an ignorant dumb-ass for thinking that these things are facts. All too often, people think their opinion on a subject equals the facts of said subject, and that's simply not the case.

"Denial" is a very well acted film from everyone involved. Rachel Weisz offers an excellent and passionate performance as Deborah Lipstadt, who shows two sides to the woman fighting for what she knows to be the truth. Lipstadt can be both verbose and driven in her points of view and her knowledge of history, but is also forced to be quiet for the sake of the case, which she has a morally difficult time doing. Weisz plays both of these traits convincingly and flawlessly. Both Andrew Scott and Tom Wilkinson are also brilliant as her attorneys, Scott as the behind-the-scenes case builder, and Wilkinson as the barrister in charge of presenting the entire case to a judge. Timothy Spall also gives a great but not pleasant performance as the rather smarmy David Irving. Spall always does such a fantastic job playing these wormy characters, and Irving is no different.

Though it's not as emotional as we thought it might be considering the subject matter, we still really enjoyed "Denial." It's one of the better courtroom dramas this year and kept us thoroughly engaged for its entire run time. Backed up by solid performances by Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, and Andrew Scott, this is definitely a film to check out if history and/or matters of fact versus free speech interest you.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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