You think of some of the great courtroom dramas and you’re reminded of the likes of Philadelphia, A Few Good Men, To Kill A Mockingbird, etc. Denial had the potential to join that prestigious list.
Note the word “had”.
The movie follows author/historian Deborah Lipstadt who must battle for historical truth to prove the Holocaust actually occurred after David Irving, a renowned Holocaust denier, sues her for libel.
Whilst it boasts a great performance from Timothy Spall as the grotesque David Irving, sadly there isn’t much else to admire here. Rachael Weisz gives a flat performance of Lipstadt, making it difficult to connect to her even in the most important moments of the film thanks to her pushy, abrupt, and at times stubborn personality.
The film at times feels like a parody in the way the characters interact and the way the film develops. It seems like there’s an underlying humour of British culture. For example: a scene in a solicitor’s office in which an intense conversation is in progress, an assistant leans in with a cup of tea, offering it to Lipstadt, as if to say “Haha, the British, they always drink tea even in the most heated situations”. This type of humour seems out of place and makes the filmmakers look amateurish.
The courtroom scenes lack the intensity and energy needed to keep the audience engaged, never giving us that “you can’t handle the truth” moment.
If the intention for the film was to expose David Irving for the grotesque character he is, then mission accomplished – However a quick look at one of his horrible videos on sites such as YouTube would have had the same effect.