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The Journey (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 91 minutes.


The battle between the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland is as legendary as it was bloody (known as The Troubles). In 2006 the parties met in Scotland to once again try to resolve the issues. The leaders were the Rev. Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall), the closed-minded leader of the Protestants, and Martin McGuiness (Colm Meany), the leader of the IRA. They two had never met, but they hated each other.

There was apparently a tradition in Northern Ireland for politicians from opposing factions to travel together to prevent assassination attempts. In 2006 Paisley had to return to Ireland to attend a party celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary. McGuiness apparently traveled with him.

They flew together, but nobody knows what happened. What did happen that they know of is that The Troubles were settled. Director Tim Hamm and writer Colin Bateman decided to move the location from the confined, claustrophobic airplane to an automobile. So they had Paisley and McGinnis ride together in a limousine to an airport that was over an hour away.

This movie is an imagination of the conversation that might have taken place between these two antagonists who hated one another, and it is a sparkling journey.

I don’t think there is any actor extant who can portray a hateful, unlikable person as well as Spall. I thought he deserved an Oscar nomination last year for his performance in Denial, and I would give him another for this performance. He is so condescendingly arrogant that one cannot help but despise him.

While sophisticated moviegoers might think that the film has a lot of green screen and CGI in it for the car trip, in fact the movie was actually filmed in a moving car as shown on screen.

There have been lots of films about two men who oppose one another. The one that stands out for me is Becket, which brought together the monumental battle of wills between King Henry II, played by Peter O’Toole (“Won’t anybody rid me of this troublesome prince?”), and Thomas a Becket, played by Richard Burton.

Spall and Meany need not take a backseat to O’Toole and Burton and their performances here. Working with a smart, intelligent script they fence with one another throughout the movie in a way that is entirely believable.

This does what movies should do; it educates and entertains at the same time.