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Denial (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 110 minutes.

OK for children.

Outstanding performances by Rachel Weisz and Tom Wilkinson are upstaged by an Oscarģ-quality appearance by Timothy Spall as the hateful denier in this film based on a 2000 defamation lawsuit in England by a Holocaust denier against an author who called him to task.

American historian Deborah Lipstadt (Weisz) wrote a book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, after which she was sued by a British writer, David Irving (Spall), for libel. In the U.S., a plaintiff in a libel suit has the burden of proof. In the U.K, itís exactly opposite; the defendant must prove the truth of what she wrote. So Lipstadt found herself in the fight of her life, which required her to prove that the Holocaust actually occurred.

While the arrogant Irving chooses to represent himself, Lipstadt and her publisher chose a high-level British team headed by barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson). Actually, in Britain (I worked for a solicitorís office in London for a while during my legal career) barristers are hired by solicitors, not by the client. A client goes to a solicitor who hires the barrister and the barrister actually works for the solicitor. The solicitor in this case was Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) who is prickly and a cold fish.

What really bothers Lipstadt is that Rampton intends to try the case without calling any of the Holocaust survivors to testify, which annoys Lipstadt no end. The resulting touchy relationship between Weisz and her seemingly unsympathetic attorneys is very well done.

This is an interesting story and itís made much better by Spallís sparkling performance.