For decades, the Irish Republican Army fought for independence from the British Empire, and even when they got a sliver of autonomy the Brits still held on to a small section of the North. This set forth a decades-long battle fought in the streets and in the court of public opinion. When most people thought about terrorism in Europe, they thought of the IRA and their campaign against the British. But in the past decade there has been sustained peace. That all happened due to a summit that occurred between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, two hardliners that have stood on opposite sides of the political spectrum. That meeting that led to peace is the subject of the new film from director Nick Hamm, The Journey, which is a fictionalized account of the tense meeting between these polar opposites.
The screenplay by Colin Bateman has Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney) arranged to meet prior to Paisley’s plans for his 50th wedding anniversary. However, their plans to meet have been orchestrated behind the scenes by MI5 chief Harry Patterson (John Hurt), who has monitored the small car that the two foes are crammed into. He also has the driver Jack (Freddie Highmore) taking orders as to how to stall the two politicians in the hope that they’ll strike a deal in order to no longer be in each other’s company.
The Journey doesn’t necessarily offer the greatest political insights with its dialogue that is mostly a number of political platitudes. What it does offer is two great actors working at the top of their game, feeding off each other’s intensity. And yet one the more interesting aspects of the script by Bateman is the way with which he’s able to frame the larger changes to the nature of terrorism, and how the tactics of the IRA became outdated and obsolete in a post-9/11 world.
There’s not much in The Journey that’s going to wrap up people unfamiliar with the longstanding conflict between the Irish and British, but those who have followed the proceedings closely will find ample amounts of drama in this fictionalized account of the deal that led to lasting peace. Naturally, there’s an edge of Catholic vs. Protestant underlying this war of words, and a wry Irish wit to keep the bullshit at a minimum.
- Overall Score
A fictionalized account of the meeting that led to peace between Ireland and England in the mid-2000s, The Journey may not offer the best political insights but features two riveting performances by Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney.