Odd couples and road trips are staples of western cinema stretching back almost to the very birth of the industry. But even over this length of time there will have been fewer people thrown together for a stranger trip than that shown in The Journey.
The film charts the journey, literally and figuratively, of Dr Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney). It follows the pair, along with their driver, Jack, in their efforts to thwart time, weather and suicidal deer to get Dr Paisley home in time for his golden wedding anniversary. So far, so Planes, Trains and Automobiles. But all is, of course, not as it seems. The movie is set in 2006, during precariously balanced talks aimed at bringing to an end the painful and bloody chapter of our history known as The Troubles.
It is MI5 chief Harry Patterson (played by screen legend John Hurt) who sees the opportunity to bring the warring figureheads together away from the influence of their advisers and hangers-on. He then sets the pair out on their journey in a carefully stage-managed attempt to bring together the two powerhouses of the opposing sides of the peace process to bond at a personal level.
The perennially underrated Colm Meaney shines in a starring role, his Martin McGuinness is a quick-witted, humorous everyman struggling to come to terms with the violence perpetrated in the name of the cause he believes in with heart and soul. Timothy Spall spends his time wearing an almost equine, tombstone-toothed sneer that is always ready to crack open and spit forth recriminations or Bible verse. A lesser actor would be tempted to ham up this role, chew the scenery and play a character with such strong mannerisms and tics for laughs; that Spall refuses to do this is very much to his credit.
Director Nick Hamm’s feature lives or dies by the performances of its two stars – they are in such close quarters, literally sharing the back seat of a car for well over half the total running time. Handy, then, that these are two actors in their prime working off of a wonderful, nuanced script that inserts enough humour to keep the audience on side while at the same time not shying away from the hurt and suffering of the bloody civil war that has pushed these two men together.
The Journey is the story of two old warriors coming to terms with their bloody legacies, seeing that though their divided past may have led to violence, their connected future can lead to peace.
The Journey does not have a UK release date yet.