Movie Review: ‘THE JOURNEY’ shows great performances, but packs light
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
In 2006, talks between sworn enemies Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuiness and the Democratic Party’s Rev. Ian Paisley led to peace in Northern Ireland after decades of turmoil. After the 2006 St. Andrews Agreement, Paisley became First Minister and McGuiness became Deputy First Minister…they also became great allies. How did these two men, who greatly despised each other, bury the hatchet so well that it led to Northern Ireland’s peace? It had to have been a long and arduous journey to get to that point. Nick Hamm’s THE JOURNEY would like to imagine that it was some formulaic road trip full of piss and vinegar, but subsides after a few events to open their eyes to each other. Seriously. The movie itself begins with a title card that says, “THIS STORY IMAGINES THAT JOURNEY.”
The film begins with Paisley (Timothy Spall) needing a ride to the airport to fly to Belfast for his 50th wedding anniversary. McGuiness (Colm Meaney) finds out about it, and stages it so he must take the same car to the airport. The UK’s top brass, which include Tony Blair (Toby Stephens) and Harry Patterson (John Hurt, in one of his last roles), decide they need to plant someone on the inside to make them fall in love come to an agreement. They enlist Jack (Freddie Highmore) to be the driver, while small cameras are hidden in the car so they can have eyes on the situation as they make their way to the airport.
There are strong performances here between Spall, Meaney, and Highmore, especially Spall. But they don’t outweigh the decision-making that makes THE JOURNEY such a mess. It’s hard to balance the flashbacks of IRA bombings and the n’er-do-well attitude of a warm buddy comedy. Also, showing Parliament having some control in the situation of Northern Ireland’s peace undermines the actual work of Paisley and McGuiness. The creators of this movie might have meant well, but this story should have been a different journey.
THE JOURNEY is now playing in limited release. Dallas-Fort Worth: Angelika Film Center in Dallas.