There’s a real cinematic challenge facing this fact-based legal drama: It’s based on a court case where the entire strategy is not to provide anything built around big emotional catharsis. That’s the story of Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), an Emory University faculty member and historian who is sued in British court in 1996 by Holocaust denier/self-styled historian David Irving (Timothy Spall) for libel for attacking his “scholarship”—and this being British libel law, it means the burden of proof is on Lipstadt. The bulk of the action, such as it is, involves Lipstadt’s legal team (led by Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott) trying to convince her to keep both herself and any Holocaust survivors off the stand, and make the case entirely about Irving’s credibility. The result is some intriguing tension between “proving there was a Holocaust” and “proving Irving a liar,” and the performances are strong enough in these scenes. There’s simply not much that makes for compelling movie viewing, notwithstanding an eerie research visit to the mist-shrouded rubble of Auschwitz. David Hare’s adapted screenplay feels like a potentially fascinating stage play that missed its proper medium.
Director: Mick Jackson
Producer: Gary Foster, Russ Krasnoff, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Christine Langan, Joe Oppenheimer, Andrew Karpen and Guy Heeley
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Jack Lowden, Caren Pistorius, Alex Jennings, Harriet Walter, Mark Gatiss, John Sessions, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Pip Carter, Jackie Clune, Will Attenborough, Max Befort, Daniel Cerqueira, Laurel Lefkow, Elliot Levey, Helen Bradbury, Jacob Krichefski, Abigail Cruttenden, Hilton McRae, Andrea Deck and Lachele Carl