Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) finds more than her work put on trial when she’s sued for libel by David Irving (Timothy Spall). Irving, a self-proclaimed “historian” who claims that the Holocaust is a myth, sues Lipstadt in Great Britain, where the burden of proof is placed on the defendant. To win the case, Lipstadt and her legal team will have to prove in court that the Holocaust is fact, and that Irving knows it.
Denial offers a fascinating legal case, in part because of its setting in British courts, and in part because of the absurdity of the case. To many people, the occurrence of the Holocaust is simply fact. It’s mind-boggling to realize that some people believe that it’s fiction, for whatever reasons they provide. The film also provides a uniformly strong cast, led by Weisz, Spall and Tom Wilkinson as Lipstadt’s legal representative in court.
And yet, Denial doesn’t quite come together the way it should. There’s little doubt as to how things will ultimately turn out, which removes some drama from the film. Lipstadt is also told to keep quiet during the court scenes, which makes the scenes out of the court more dramatic as she finally reacts, but fails to do much with her during the (frequent) court scenes. It’s still a fascinating case, and Denial is an informative film. It’s just lacking in enough drive to help effectively help sell the film.