Mick Jackson returns to the director’s chair for his first movie in 14 years – and it couldn’t feel like a more timely release, for here’s a film that scrutinises over the protection of free speech from those who abuse it, how opinion masquerades as fact, and the troubling ramifications that derive from public bullshitting. Though a staggeringly pertinent theme, Jackson presents his film with an affectionate nod to classic courtroom dramas, as a sub-genre that so often illuminates the silver screen, and when executed as efficiently as this, you can see why.

Based entirely on true events, with the dialogue in the courtroom taken verbatim from real life transcripts – we meet author Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz), who is adamant she will never debate with a Holocaust denier, unwilling to get into an argument with someone who disputes facts. But British historian, the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) tests her resolve, suing Lipstadt for Defamation following comments about him in one of her books. Ensuring the case takes place in the UK, the English legal system puts the accused under the spotlight, meaning that the respectable writer, alongside her solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) and barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), have to prove to the judge that the Holocaust is real. No pressure.

Related: Our Interviews with the cast and filmmakers from Denial are here

Though we completely adopt the perspective of Lipstadt, Jackson – alongside screenwriter David Hare – ensures this film takes a balanced viewpoint, allowing the denier’s absurd rhetoric a platform, to then witness Lipstadt stand her ground and shut him down, as the film’s inclination to remind people what occurred perpetuates the very reason she agreed to go to court in the first place. The disagreements between the legal team and their client are intriguing too, as while we side with her, when she’s upset that she isn’t allowed to testify, nor will they let survivors appear as witnesses, we, like her, grow to appreciate why such decisions are made,as they seek in turning the defence into a prosecution, and putting Irving on trial. The viewer is placed in an interesting place, somewhere between the legal team, who represent intellectualism, while also sympathising with Lipstadt, who comes at this situation from an emotional standpoint.

Timothy Spall - DenialThe film remains accessible too, which is commendable given the lawyer jargon – but it’s been written in a truly accomplished way, with barely a wasted line. It helps that Lipstadt represents the viewer, naïve to the British legal system and so asking questions on our behalf, having the explanations repeated back to her in a way we can all understand. It’s a terrific lead display from Weisz, who, as a Brit, does a fine job of appearing as something of an outsider, enforcing the notion of isolation and helping to form that bond between the character and viewer, as she takes on this case, along, and away from home.

Spall matches her at every turn, playing an irresponsible, nasty piece of work without veering into the realm of the caricature. He needs to be play the role as an intelligent and charismatic person, despite being a reprehensible one, and he pulls it off. We need this as we have to appreciate the threat he poses, and it’s of great commendation to Jackson that despite knowing how this tale ends, we remain compelled, constantly aware that this case is not going to be a walk in the park for Lipstadt. On the surface it appears as a simple matter of truth vs lies, leaving only one victor – and yet he seems a formidable opponent at times, enhancing the suspense and intensity of the narrative, which, as a piece of cinema, this film requires.

And in spite of the engaging, overtly cinematic elements, there is a constant reminder of what this film is truly about; to do justice and be respectful of those who tragically lost their lives. The trip the characters take to Auschwitz is a harrowing reminder of why Lipstadt is fighting this case. It’s a challenging scene to watch – particularly as we’re given the guided tour – and it’s made even harder when contemplating the fact that people like Irving have resurfaced today. Well Denial is on hand to remind us we don’t need people like this in the limelight, let’s take inspiration from Lipstadt and shut them down.