Film Review: THE JOURNEY (UK 2016) ***

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THE JOURNEY.jpgA fictional account of the extraordinary story of two implacable enemies in Northern Ireland.

Director: Nick Hamm
Writer: Colin Bateman
Stars: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt

Review by Gilbert Seah
Who would think that former enemies Rev. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness nicknamed ‘The Chuckling Brothers’ would remain friends for life after their meeting that finally resulted in the long awaited peace in Northern Ireland. No more bombings! No more bullets! Director Hamm underlines the violence as the film starts.

Nick Hamm’s THE JOURNEY is a dramatization about how these two two political opposites came together to change the course of history – an event that resulted in the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin (the political party of the Irish Republican Army) signing a 2006 agreement, bringing peace to Northern Ireland after nearly 40 years of violence.

Hamm’s journey is basically a two-handler, performed by two actors, one known for his humour the Irish Colm Meaney (THE SNAPPER) and the other for his dead seriousness, Timothy Spall (the Mike Leigh films). Most of the scenes involve banter between both of them. The film imagines a trip in a minivan where the two sort out their differences, come to an agreement and finally bring peace to the different groups. It is a real event though that minivan trip was imagined, as written in the script by Colin Bateman. The real trip took pace in an airplane. But the facts remain true. The reason the film changed the venue is not given but the change offers a visual treat, with lush greenery and rocky shores seen through rain-splattered windows. The drive was to the airport in Glasgow, Scotland.

Spall and Meaney are a pleasure to watch. Other British actors in the film include the late John Hurt (THE ELEPHANT MAN) as M15 boss Harry Patterson and Toby Stephens as Prime Minister Toby Stephens. Freddie Highmore has a small but mischievous role as the chauffeur, a British agent in disguise.

Director Hamm takes his time to set up the stage for the action when the two are finally the car and talking. The chauffeur, through his head set, is prompted to instigate the conversation. It is comical to see two grown men behaving just like children, fighting and wanting their own way. The conversation starts when McGuinness’s mobile is unable to get a signal but Paisley refuses to lend his. Bateman’s script, which imagines the actual conversation involves lots of funnily one-liners and rebuttals. The script is also believable in the way the ice is broken and the two eventually get talking. At the same time, hatred, humour and hard-nosed stubbornness are on full display.

They is a little film that documents a real life-changing event through imagined conversation. It is an entertaining exercise that also reflects strength overcoming the weaknesses of the human character in the strife for the good of mankind. But at the time of writing this review, problems are beginning to resurface again as observed in the recent news.


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