THE JOURNEY – A Review by Cynthia Flores
If you’re into movies about historical happenings and watching two heavy hitting actors go toe to toe verbally then you’ll like The Journey. This is what I would definitely call an “Art House” movie. It’s a foreign film even though it’s all in English, it’s beautifully shot and it’s slow moving but important and well done. At the core of the film is the story of how two men on opposite sides of the political spectrum in the Irish civil war called “The Troubles” came together In Scotland to forge one of the most unlikely political friendships in modern history.
The film is based on a true story in the fact that in 2006, amidst the ongoing, decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland, representatives from the two warring factions met In Scotland for peace talks. The leader of the deeply conservative British loyalists was Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall). The leader of the other side was Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney), a former Irish Republican Army leader who devoted his life to the cause of Irish reunification. Opposites in every way, the two men at first seem to have little chance of ever finding common ground.
The Talks happened to coincide with Ian Paisley’s 50th wedding anniversary, which required him to fly back to Belfast. Martin McGuinness, decided to travel with him. These two men had never spoken to each other let alone traveled together. However it was customary amongst politicians in Northern Ireland during “The Troubles” for politicians from opposing factions to travel together to prevent assassination attempts. So in real life they ended up on a private jet together with nowhere to hide.
In doing his research for the film, the director (Nick Hamm), said that his conversations with both the Paisley camp and with McGuinness himself ended with no firm conclusions. One side said they spoke and the other denied it. So that’s where the film dives into conjecture and puts the meat of their story over the course of an impromptu, detour-filled car ride through the Scottish countryside with a chatty driver because the Glasgow airport is closed due to the rain and the private jet is at another airport an hour away. The car is outfitted with cameras and mics so the Brits and other key players at the peace talks can see what is going on. As the ride progresses each begins to see the other less as an enemy, and more as an individual—a breakthrough that promises to bring a lasting peace to the troubled region.
I have been to Ireland and love the place and its people. I grew up seeing the news of the bombings and attacks that were going on during “The Troubles” and so I knew a little about the backstory already. Don’t worry if you don’t because the film does a quick and concise cliff notes version of the history at the beginning of the film so everyone is on the same page. The film is driven by the two virtuoso central performances of Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall. Mr. Spall is a gifted character actor, who completely gets lost in someone else's skin. His portrayal of Ian Paisley to most might look over the top and almost a parody except that is how the man really acted and looked like, he was bigger than life.
The Journey is not a perfect film; however, it is worth a view. It’s a timely reminder of how simple humanity can overcome political division and bigotry.
Directed by Nick Hamm
Written By Colin Bateman
Selig Rating B+
Running Time 95min
Limited Release Friday July 7th at Angelika Theaters
Starring: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt, Freddie Highmore, Toby Stephens