Director Mick Jackson’s Denial is an enjoyable and well put together courtroom drama. This is the kind of thing Hollywood used to do so well in the ‘80s and ‘90s, before this type of film migrated to the small screen. Jackson’s film is based on the outlandish true story of how historian Deborah Lipstadt was sued by Holocaust denier David Irving, forcing her to prove in a UK court that the Holocaust actually happened.
Denial might deal with a weighty subject but it doesn’t get too bogged down with seriousness or detail. There’s a levity to the film, partly due to David Hare’s breezy script (the story is so far out you couldn’t make it up) and partly because the strong cast is so good at handling the material. Rachel Weisz plays Lipstadt and she anchors the film with the requisite amount of humanity but also adds a bit of zing through Lipstadt’s New York sass. Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott score points as Lipstadt’s legal team, while Timothy Spall gives Irving the right amount of hammy pantomime villainy to make his character detestable without ever feeling that he’s truly evil (you almost feel sorry for him).The most random piece of casting is Mark Gatiss‘ turn as a Dutch Holocaust expert – it’s just…off.
Denial’s release couldn’t be more timely. Incredibly, we’re now living in the post-truth and fake news era, a time where facts and reality are interchangeable with lies and denial . Donald Trump shows us that if you say something loud and long enough then it might become true and this gives Irving’s rantings in Denial added weight. It also makes you wonder what would happen if a similar case was brought against someone today.
Jackson has assembled an impressive technical team and I was particularly taken by Howard Shore’s score and Haris Zambarloukos’ cinematography. Both really compliment the story and they add to the overall enjoyment of this classy production. This is all top tier stuff and it means that Denial is the whole package.