On Holocaust Memorial Day, Donald Trump gave a statement that failed to mention Jews; something of a glaring omission, most right-thinking people would agree. This right-thinking film was released on the same day, telling the true story of Deborah E. Lipstadt’s (Rachel Weisz) legal battle with Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall).
When historian Lipstadt called Irving out in the 1990s, he sued her for libel, which is a pretty good way to draw attention to yourself. This theatrical, polemical drama follows her legal team and their strategy: to put neither Lipstadt nor the Holocaust on trial, but Irving himself.
Spall’s slippery performance is a highlight, along with Tom Wilkinson as the British barrister. And it’s always nice to see Mark Gatiss and John Sessions – not to be confused with Jeff Sessions, to whom the opposite applies. Lipstadt is disappointingly poorly drawn, but Weisz does get the best lines. “Not all opinions are equal,” she argues, explaining that she won’t debate Holocaust deniers for the same reason she won’t debate people who say Elvis is still alive.
This forceful championship of the truth is Denial‘s great strength, hammered home by David Hare’s heavy-handed screenplay. There’s no denying that this film lacks subtlety, and feels televisual throughout; two traits perhaps unsurprising from the director of the brilliant movie Threads, Mick Jackson.
Still, Denial‘s conviction shines through these myriad cracks, feeling pertinent and clear-headed in its defence of legality against the recent onslaught of attacks on the courts from the British press and American Executive alike. In any other week, the film’s failings could easily ruin the piece. But right now, in a maelstrom of “alternative facts,” it’s refreshing to see a movie argue in no uncertain terms that the truth trumps lies. Pun intended.