DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

DENIAL (director: Mick Jackson; screenwriter: David Hare/based on the book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, DENIAL by Deborah E. Lipstadt; cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos; editor: Justine Wright; music: Howard Shore; cast:  Rachel Weisz (Deborah E. Lipstadt), Tom Wilkinson (Richard Rampton), Timothy Spall (David Irving), Andrew Scott (Anthony Julius), Jack Lowden ( James Libson), Mark Gatiss (Professor Robert Jan van der Pelt) Caren Pistorius (Laura Tyler), Alex Jennings (Sir Charles Gray); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Gary Foster/Russ Krasnoff; Bleeker Street; 2016-UK/USA)

"The film is salvaged by great performances by both Tom Wilkinson and Rachel Weisz."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

British playwright David Hare retells the upsetting case of the Holocaust-denying British historian David Irving (Timothy Spall). Mick Jackson ("Temple Grandin"/"A Very British Coup") directs the courtroom drama in a terse and tense way, using trial transcripts in the courtroom scenes. Denial is middle-brow PBS fare that is morally sound but flat as far as being entertaining. It's based on the book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, DENIAL by Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor in Jewish studies at an American university. Though telling an important story, the controversial subject about Holocaust deniers deserved a better film.

Rachel Weisz plays Deborah E. Lipstadt, the American author who gets engaged in the 1990s in a heated libel case in the Brit courts with the fiery Holocaust denier David Irving when he claims her attacks on him without showing proof the Holocaust existed caused great damage to him as an author and professor and curtailed his livelihood. It's up to Lipstadt and her legal team to prove that the Holocaust occurred, as in the Brit system the burden of proof remains with the defendant and not with the plaintiff.

The film is salvaged by great performances by both Tom Wilkinson and Rachel Weisz.
Wilkinson is the defendant's cagey lawyer Richard Rampton. His strategy is not to call the Holocaust survivors to the stand fearing the witnesses will be abused. He also chooses not to let Lipstadt take the stand. Weisz shows her frustration over this decision to be muted and her performance shows the difficulty the righteous have in defending themselves from falsehoods.

The restrained film never brings more to the table than the court records, and therefore seems better suited to be a documentary. The film's most potent scene is a trip to
Auschwitz by Lipstadt's legal team, that reminds one of how dastardly and vile is the neo-Nazi's darling author.

REVIEWED ON 11/30/2016       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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