Denial is one of those handsomely mounted Oscar bait dramas with recognizable actors that we respect and a poignant subject matter that we are required to take seriously if we hope to be respectable humans. So it is in theory impervious to criticism. After all, it reminds us all that we believe in the right things and are good people. Plus it’s based on a true story, so it has to be important, right? Meh…not so much. Mick Jackson’s souped up TV movie is too dull to respect, even with a few strong performances.
The film is about the evils of holocaust denial. Specifically David Irving (Timothy Spall), a British dingbat and military historian who dedicated his “career” to racism in the form of allegedly historical facts proving the falsehood of the Holocaust. Of course, printing that statement is theoretically libellous, which genuine holocaust historian Deborah E. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) discovered when she wrote a book featuring passages denouncing him. That meant she had to go to court in the UK and due to the peculiarities of local laws, the onus was on her to prove Irving’s guilt. Thankfully, she got a crack British law team to do the job and since they are played by talented British thespians like Andrew Scott and Tom Wilkinson, you know they’re good!
There aren’t really any surprises in Denial at any point. Even if you’ve never heard of the story before, you know exactly how it will end. This isn’t really a movie for serious cinephiles. It’s more for the casual folks who aren’t looking for interesting technique or challenging storytelling. You know, the type of audience who likes to have their cozy world confirmed after feigning outrage momentarily. That’s fine, it’ll work for them and Timothy Spall is quite good in a snooty British snake-charmer way. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing here to get particularly excited or enraged about. It’s a decidedly average affair all around. Ho-hum. Ah well.
This review was originally published as part of our TIFF 2016 coverage.