I wanted to like this movie but it reeks of BBC involvement and I mean that in a pejorative manner.Timothy Thrall is a fine actor and he garnered a great deal of attention for his role as Irving. But I think that his casting was unfortunate.Why?Because David Irving was (and is) a quite handsome man and Thrall looks like a Scrooge. One bad casting ruined the entire film for me. Thrall with his jowls and corners of his mouth turned down, looking confused - that's not Irving.Knowing the verdict of the trial beforehand makes the highlight of the film rather dim. Maybe if one has no knowledge of the trial or of Irving the film will be more of a surprise.Three stars.
Neither the script nor Weisz convince in this disappointing superficial and artificial take on the David Irving libel case. Timothy Spall, however, is on fine form.
It's strange to say this, but "Denial" is Timothy Spall's movie. Strange because the movie is based a book by American historian Deborah Lipstadt on the libel trial launched by British amateur historian David Irving against herself and Penguin Books. Irving was played by Spall. The trial was launched because Irving claimed that Lipstadt had libelled him in a book she had written. Irving was a Holocaust denier, and Lipstadt a Jewish academic who specialized in the Holocaust. Given that the movie is based on Lipstadt's book you expect her to be the focal point, but Irving - in spite of his noxious anti-semitic views - was really the more compelling character, largely because of how well Spall did with the part. Rachel Weisz took on the part of Lipstadt. She was fine in the role, but outshone by Spall.After an opening encounter between the two in Atlanta, where Lipstadt was speaking, most of the movie is set in a British courtroom. You do learn some of the finer points in British law - such as that in the UK it's the defendant in a libel trial that has to prove the case. Irving launched the case in the UK for that very reason. You also see in Lipstadt just a wee bit of the "ugly American" from time to time - such as her refusal to bow to the judge when her trial begins, because- as she said - "I'm an American." Maybe - but too bad. You're in a British court! (She did bow to the judge eventually.) There are some ugly anti-semitic demonstrations portrayed outside the courtroom.The presentation of the case by Lipstadt's legal team is fairly dry and technical. It's interesting from a historical perspective - but you really have to have an interest in history to appreciate some of the finer points. I do have a Bachelors degree in history, so found it interesting to watch as Lipstadt's legal team and various witnesses pull Irving's views apart. But I would say that overall the movie isn't especially engrossing. It's a good movie. It's an important subject. Even aside from the Holocaust, it does deal with the question of when and whether there should be limits on freedom of speech. It's certainly worth watching, but it's certainly not an American-style courtroom drama filled with suspense. (6/10)
When British history writer David Irving sued for libel the American historian and academic Deborah Lipstadt, because she had accused him of being a Holocaust denier, I assumed that he had no chance of winning and that, having been defeated in a court of law, the cause of Holocaust denial would be irredeemably damaged. I was wrong on both scores which is why, 17 years after the trial, it is so important that this big name film about the case has been made.As the film makes clear, Irving's defeat was far from certain because, in an English libel case, the defendant has to prove the veracity of the offending material and an important part of the price paid by the defence was that neither Lipstadt nor Holocaust survivors were called to testify so that Irving, who conducted his own case, could not exploit them. The film is released at a time when social media online and Trump in the White House are giving extraordinary prominence to falsehoods in an era which has been dubbed "post-truth".The Holocaust happened and, if this film helps to remind people of this incontrovertible fact, it will make a valuable contribution to evidence-based discourse. The main problem for such a cinematic work of less than two hours is that the case was so prolonged and complex. It ran for five years (2000-2005) and, when it came to trial, it went on for 32 days and ended with a judgement of 355 pages. A further problem is that the viewer always knows the outcome, which inevitably diminishes the tension of the narrative, although director Mick Jackson and writer David Hare do their best to build up a sense of uncertainty. So, as a film, this is never going to be a crowd-pleaser.But it tells an important story about an issue of huge historical significance and it does it with a roster of fine British actors. Rachel Weisz (herself Jewish) is the feisty Lipstadt and Timothy Spalling is convincing in the unsympathetic role of Irving, while Tom Wilkinson is formidable barrister Richard Rampton and Andrew Scott is cerebral solicitor Anthony Julius. Some of my Jewish friends feel that the film is unfair to the British Jewish community, but a good deal of research went into this work and every word that Irving utters during the screen version of the trial is taken verbatim from the court records.