HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:71
Recently it seems that the famed atrocities of the Auschwitz concentration camp have gained a sort of notoriety in cinemas and public image once more. This years “Labyrinth of Lies” delved into the idea of Holocaust denial (a strange theory that has once again surfaced even today in reality it seems), but was met with middling success. This time we get to look into the idea of denying the idea that this was all a fabricated tale told by Jews who were trying to solidify their financial future by peddling a “woe is me” story that would ensure sympathy donations into their coffers for generations to come. Despite the evidence and the word of mouth testimony by ACTUAL survivors, this “fake news” continues to be strewn around in some circles. Now I use the term fake news jokingly, but it is what it is. That term has gained new relevance with the accusations of news sources in America spreading false (or otherwise altered) information in a sort of propaganda war. A tactic that is used quite well by the antagonist in “Denial” to get the same desired effect. Belief in his point of view no matter the cost.
Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is a well-known lecturer and teacher in the United States whose specialty lies in the Holocaust and teaching its veracity to people. In her most recent book she publicly called out a famous Holocaust denier by the name of David Irving (Timothy Spall), calling him a liar and twister of facts. Irving has long been a denier of the Holocaust and a defender of Hitler, but his star is fading from the British limelight. After Deborah’s statements in her book the historian jumps on the chance to bring his career out of the shadows into said limelight once more by filing a libel lawsuit against in England against her. Being that this is in England, there is a different statute of laws. Instead of the more traditional “guilty until proven innocent” laws of the U.S., the exact opposite is true. Deborah has every option to just settle with Irving and push this whole thing under the rug, essentially burying his relevance permanently, but no. Deborah can NOT let this go. Against all better judgement, she agrees to fight the case in England.
Thanks to the highly controversial subject matter of her lawsuit, Deborah is joined by crack British defamation lawyers Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott of “Sherlock” fame), Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) and a bevy of other highly skilled individuals at no cost to herself (although there is some fund raising involved as the preparation takes a year to fully make a case for either side). A boon that is extremely handy for Deborah, but one that really isn’t a necessary bit of knowledge for the viewer as the actual nuts and bolts of WHAT goes on is much more intriguing. As the year goes on and the trial gets underway, Deborah is forced to come to the conclusion that in order to win she may have to trust those people who she is working with instead of always being right. Something that ironically is the antithesis of her opponent.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88018[/img]For all of its highly emotional subject matter and intense passions that fuel the fires of discord between Irving and Lipstadt, “Denial” is a surprisingly low key film. I don’t say that with any malice or negative connotations as it is a highly entertaining and intriguing court room/historical drama. In fact, it’s a movie that I barely had a chance to look at my watch because I was just letting the movie happen, so to speak. There’s no big speeches or catchy phrases that gives you that emotional high in the courtroom. There’s no impassioned moment near the end while the music rises and the defendant exonerates herself in a giant crescendo, but rather “Denial” takes a much more methodical and simpler approach. It allows the facts and the evidence of hard work unfold on screen in much the same way a real trial works. Simply, quietly, and bit by bit laying the framework for an intellectually appealing argument.
It sounds boring on the surface, but “Denial” is anything but boring. The main actors/characters are really what gives the film its spice. Weisz is great in her role as the frustrated and very impassioned lecturer who has had a defamation lawsuit slapped on her in a country that she has very little knowledge of the laws AND is completely confident in her being right. Just as incredibly well played (if not more so if I do say so myself) is Timothy Spall, who creates a wildly eccentric and intoxicating persona as David Irving. A man who commands attention at every corner, pulling in his audience with that enthusiasm and strange eccentricities that made him so popular in the film. With that being said, those eccentricities are his own downfall, as evidenced by those little moments where he says something outrageous or inappropriate for his character (think of his statements to the press regarding his house keepers) While both sparring partners are well done, my favorite of the batch is veteran actor Tom Wilkinson as the head of legal defense for Deborah. Tom has this magical way of creating a character that is quiet, soft spoken, yet completely and almost viciously intense at the same time. The most memorable and intoxicating moments in the entire film are when Tom gets on the offensive and passionately tears David Irving apart. There’s a sense of ice cold fury behind those eyes, but the cool and collected tone of a man who is in perfect control of the situation.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and brief strong language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88026[/img]Utilizing the Red Epic Dragon digital cameras, “Denial” comes to Blu-ray with a fairly flat looking 2.39:1 AVC encoded image. The digital photography is shot with a sort of bland and uninteresting looking filter to it. One that gives a sort of blue/grey sheen to the picture and leaves us with fairly uninteresting looking details. Colors are decent enough, but there is not a whole lot of saturation due to the flat filming style and the black levels show off a good bit of noise in the darker bits. I didn’t notice any banding or heavy macroblocking, it just seems that the shooting style was overly dim and grey, which leads to a rather flat and “meh” looking final result. There’s nothing technically wrong with Universal’s encode, it’s just not shot to look exciting or overly bright and cheery. The first 30-40 minutes are a bit cheerier and show off more colors, such as when Rachel is jogging outside with the red bus, or the blue sweater, but once the court room drama picks up things dim down considerably.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=88034[/img]“Denial” is given a single 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in English, and it’s about what one would except for a dramatic film. Dialog is firmly rooted up front in the center channel, and the rest of the track stays within the confines of the front soundstage for the most part. There’s some ambient noises, such as rainfall and the creaking of a footstep down an old stair or the occasional swell of the score, but for the most part the surrounds are a fairly minimalistic affair. Everything is done by the numbers, with a strong front sound stage and a soft LFE usage with the mild ambient background effects in the side surrounds, but that’s exactly the type of film we’re dealing with. A film that focuses on dialog and minimal distractions to the point at hand. While it’s not a blockbuster style mix, “Denial” does everything asked of it with ease and grace.
• The Making of "Denial"
With the media ablaze with the term “false news!” at every turn, “Denial” works as an appropriate subject matter for today’s politics (and also goes over a little bit of the older politics as well I might add). It won’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to court room dramas, and it isn’t as intense as some other famous ones, but it is smart as a tack and really knows how to capture the audience without a whole lot of visual trickery or over the top acting. Everyone involved do incredible jobs with the roles they’ve been given and while I may not give it the HIGHEST marks ever, it certainly was enough to put a satisfied smile on my face. The video is sadly a bit lackluster and the extras extremely anemic, but the audio is sure to please fans and the movie itself is well worth watching.
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall
Directed by: Mick Jackson
Written by: David Hare (Screenplay), Deborah Lipstadt (Book)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 111 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Buy Denial on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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