Let me first state how annoying movie critics can be. After catching Denial at the San Diego International Film Festival, I wanted to see what other critics were saying about it. Since I thought it lacked drama, but was an important story…I was curious to see if others agreed. And what did I see? Many critics complaining about Rachel Weisz’s accent (she plays a Jew from Queens) Come on! It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t distracting and it worked fine.
Second, many critics (that are Democrats) felt that it was the perfect opportunity to compare Holocaust denier David Irving (the wonderful Timothy Spall) to Donald Trump. I find that to be appalling. It’s not as bad when people compare politicians to Hitler, but still.
Now, onto my thoughts about the movie and not other critics.
This is the story about professor and author Deborah Lipstadt getting into a lawsuit with Irving. She’s giving a lecture when he shows up and spouts off his goofy theories on what really happened at the concentration camps. She refuses to engage with this buffoon. That videotaped incident is used against her when he sues for some disparaging remarks she made about him in a book. Her publisher, Penguin Books, is also named in the lawsuit. They’d rather settle. You see, the suit was filed in England, where it’s the defendant’s responsibility to show the burden of proof. It’s easier (and probably cheaper), for Penguin to just give him a check and make this go away.
We get a glimpse of Irving at home, playing with his daughters. We get scenes of Lipstadt jogging. It would’ve been a lot more interesting to see more of their personal lives (I had to Google to find out he married a woman in Spain and had five children with her). The movie wanted to stick with the trail, and hey…who doesn’t love a good courtroom drama? The problem is that there’s not a lot of drama here. And what there is seems forced at times.
Barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) has a few great, albeit subtle, scenes in court. There’s also a very powerful location shot in Auschwitz. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something that wasn’t a documentary actually filmed there. That entire scene — from the argument there, the tears, and the camera lingering on some rubble in the snow — is emotional.
Spall, who was terrific as Mr. Turner (even though that was an awfully boring film), hams it up as Irving, with that perfect hangdog face. It’s a character the crowd will love to hate.
It was only slightly interesting to watch the legal team try to gather evidence, when the Nazis were sure to cover their tracks. Yet the film missed a bit by not letting the audience see how the legal team plotted it all out. One of the fun things in court cases we see on the big screen, is watching the legal team build their case. In this, it’s usually just Rampton drinking wine and glancing over some papers.
Howard Shore’s hushed score was perfect, as was the cast. I just felt that spending two hours watching this…wasn’t as interesting as the 30 minutes I felt Googling and reading all about the real David Irving.
This was a story that could’ve been made into a great picture.
This gets 2 ½ stars out of 5.