Denial Review: Standing Up By Sitting Down

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When confronted by a bully and a liar, one must stand up. One must fight with all the power one can muster. One must use all the weapons at one’s disposal. At least, that’s what we are taught in today’s Hollywood cinema. However, such confrontations are often more subtle than this, and Mick Jackson’s Denial gives an equally subtle answer that modern American movies have been missing for years.

The liar in this particular case is historian and Holocaust denier David Iriving (Timothy Spall), who sues Holocaust historian and professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), for libel. Lipstadt, who has criticized Irving for his denial and perversion of history, faces a great dilemma in how to approach this man. To stand up and debate this bully would be to validate his claims as opinions worth debating. To ignore him, or in this case, to settle out of court, would be to let him continue lying unchecked. Herein lies the complexity of the problem. Herein lies the spine of Denial.

Director Mick Jackson can only execute this nuanced conflict effectively because of Rachel Weisz’s incredible performance as Deborah Lipstadt. Amongst a cohort of cool, collected British lawyers, Lipstadt, the emotionally charged Queens native struggles to keep silent. Although it would be completely reasonable for her to speak out in frustration, it would not be effective. The only means to victory is to let the law do its work. Weisz, whose fiery red hair in the film mirrors Lipstadt’s fierce spirit, portrays this conflict perfectly. During her outbursts of passion, the audience feels the same emotion. During her silent struggle, the audience can read the pain and difficulty in Weisz’s eyes.

Weisz is certainly not alone in her talented performance. Indeed, the entire film is driven by one of the strongest casts since last year’s Spotlight. Although their characters do not change throughout the film, Timothy Spall and Andrew Scott are brilliant as denier David Irving and solicitor Anthony Julius respectively. However, the best performance (Weisz aside) is undoubtedly Tom Wilkinson as barrister Richard Rampton. Again, his character does not personally grow during the film, but the audience grows through watching him. His wisdom and patience compliment Weisz’s energy perfectly.

Thanks to this magnificent cast, Denial’s message is heard loud and clear. During a time in which we have our own liars and bullies to face, we must approach carefully. We cannot fight them by shouting louder. We cannot give credence to their lies. Yet, we must make sure that their power is given no room to grow. Grade: A-

By Ryan Rose

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