The Journey – A Powerful Car Ride (Early Review)

Now here’s a story you probably haven’t heard of (myself included) but at least it means seeing Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney go at it.

Synopsis: In 2006, amidst the ongoing, decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland, representatives from the two warring factions meet for negotiations. In one corner is Ian Paisley, the deeply conservative British loyalist; in the other is Martin McGuinness, a former Irish Republican Army leader who has 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. But over the course of an impromptu, detour-filled car ride through the Scottish countryside, each begins to see the other less as an enemy, and more as an individual—a breakthrough that promises to at last bring peace to the troubled region. (Mongrel Media)

Starring: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, and John Hurt

Writer: Colin Bateman

Director: Nick Hamm

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 94mins

Trailer: 

Northern Ireland faced a violent civil war for decades but in 2006, rival leaders Ian Paisley (Spall) of the Democratic Unionist Party and Martin McGuinness (Meaney) of Sinn Féin (the political party of the Irish Republican Army) had to come together in order to stop the violence and forge peace. Since there were no recordings of these real-life leaders, the film reimagines this meeting by presenting a fictional narrative of the events leading to the signing of the historic St Andrews Agreement.

In order for them to come together, they had to get over each other’s differences and they were obviously both different people. Paisley and McGuinness are forced to do so over a car ride to the airport so Paisley could attend his wedding anniversary party. What they didn’t know was that this trip was planned all along by British Prime Minister Tony Blair (Toby Stephens) and MI5 boss Harry Patterson (Hurt).

The majority of the story consists of this ride and while this had the potential to be more on the boring side, watching the conflict between these polar opposites, albeit slow, was compelling and with a relatively short running time of 94 minutes, it just flies by. The storytelling may not have been the most original and the result was inevitable but that still made seeing the two go at it somewhat entertaining. Of course those with previous knowledge of the history will probably enjoy it more.

For a film that was mostly about a car ride, the performances at least kept things interesting. The story would definitely not have worked as well if it wasn’t for Spall and Meaney who both provided powerful performances. Despite being different characters, they were both likable and their great chemistry sold the conflict between the characters and the development of their relationship. Freddie Highmore as their driver Jack was good as well and knew his place, leaving the heavy lifting to Spall and Meaney.

Overall, this was a good drama, skirting through history while treading through familiar territory but was elevated by the lead performances of Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney.

Score: 8/10

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*The Journey will be released tomorrow in select cities across Canada courtesy of Mongrel Media.*

 

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