A fictional account of the extraordinary story of two implacable enemies in Northern Ireland - firebrand Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness - who are forced to take a short journey together in which they will take the biggest leap of faith and change the course of history.
Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney make for two of the UK’s finest actors. Put them together in a tension filled dramatic retelling of a true story and watch the fireworks explode. Ian Paisley, a staunch Evangelical Protestant who also led a strong contingency to uphold Northern Ireland as part of the English rule is unwittingly paired up with Martin McGuinness who is the former leader of the IRA to take a trip together to a private Aeroplane so that Paisley can celebrate his 70th birthday.
This is a tale based on a true story and it features many characters from the true story and, no doubt, features scenes that really did occur. However, it also includes a hint of ‘poetic licence’ from the writer Colin Bateman and the director Nick Hamm, as all the way through the story is pitted with some of the most unlikely events which, at the same time, has totally believable events. For example, Tony Blair, the prime minister of England is played by Toby Stephens in a very comic way. You could almost call him the comic relief of the movie. So probably not completely true to the facts as we all know that there was not really much funny about Mr. Blair. However, it could also be argued that [in life] Tony Blair played the comic relief to George W. Bush when they invaded Iraq. It makes me wonder whether or not this was a little jibe at the Tony Blair administration by both the director and writer? I'm quite sure that the Irish contingency that views this film will have no problem whatsoever making fun of Mr. Blair.
It was good to see Timothy Spall playing one of his ‘absolute in character’ rolls again. He's the consummate method actor who has completely enveloped his character everything that I have seen him in. He certainly has come a long way since the time of the film, ‘The Hangman’. Having said that his performance in that movie was quite amazing as well.
Colm Meaney has played so many tough guy roles that it's hard to imagine him in something softer. When you see him cast in this role as Martin McGuinness, IRA tough guy, you initially think that yes, Harry is again another tough guy. But not so. His character is well layered and his dimensions are deep. I think it's one of the few times that I have seen him weep in a movie. It's also one of the few times that I have seen Colm Meaney overpowered by another character, fiction or not. It's says something about Timothy Spall’s performance. The man is so versatile. He is able to command the screen in this movie while in another movie he's the complete opposite. The pair make the perfect duo even though they are diametrically opposed to one another with regard to their politics, religion and account of historical events.
Sadly, I would imagine that this is possibly one of the last films that we shall see an appearance from the late and great John Hurt in. His role of Harry Patterson comma adviser to the prime minister of England, adds another degree of believability to the whole story, and the whole story even though it is a true story still creates as certain strangeness. I guess the saying truth is sometimes Stranger than Fiction applies here.
This piece is a strong historical memoir of the times that were and of the times that were to come. If you know some of the history between those who fought for Northern Ireland and those who fought against the political reign of the English you might find this retelling of this tale a little too satirical. In fact, I myself found myself believing that it was perhaps a tale to lightly told. I think my first words about this movie when I left the theatre were that it was a very light-hearted tale of a very serious matter. Perhaps this was the only way the tale could be told without offending either the Catholics or the IRA? Perhaps the whole belief was that everyone had had enough of in waring and feuds. Perhaps they wanted to make it light-hearted so that past wounds would not again be irritated?
If Toby Stephens portrayal of Tony Blair wasn't in fact the comic relief then certainly Freddie Highmore, who plays Jack the driver, certainly the comic relief. Jack is really the third wheel in this buddy movie but an important wheel. His character keeps things moving along. It helps the viewer to see a perspective through a person’s eyes that is perhaps not so tied up in the whole political affairs of the times
The Journey is based on a true story and is made up of events that really did happen. Whether or not it paints the truest picture of those events or represents both parties fairly at this point is perhaps not so important. But what it does do is show us that’s during these times of struggle and Warfare the Irish were able to hold their dignity and retain that famous sense of humour. This was certainly a time that would mark a major change in Ireland's future.
If you enjoy good acting and are fans of well told stories, then I would highly recommend this as one of your quintessential viewings for the winter. It's well written, it's well executed and it's possibly one of the few films that we will ever see that includes such serious light moments in a film. Definitely a film that I would gladly recommend.
The InfoReleases: 13th July 2017
Duration: 94 minutes
Starring: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Freddie Highmore, Toby Stephens, John Hurt
Director: Nick Hamm (Killing Bono, Godsend)
Filmed near Larne - Northern Ireland