The Journey (2016) | Venice 2016
Dir: Nick Hamm | Drama | 94min | UK | Timothy Spall | John Hurt |Colm Meaney | Toby Stevens |
A rather crass comedy that reduces the Northern Ireland peace process to a glib foray into the forest. THE JOURNEY is a missed opportunity to make a really resonant and worthwhile meeting of minds between the influential figureheads of the era known as The Troubles..
The cast is superb and well chosen: Timothy Spall plays Ian Paisley, the gritty Protestant leader and head of the Democratic Unionist Party as a toothy gruffalo – almost a parody, while Colm Meaney is perfect as Martin McGuinness – he looks and sounds just like the fearful IRA member and chief negotiator for the dreaded Sinn Féin. Colin Bateman’s script places the two in a Scottish hotel near Edinburgh during the St Andrews meeting that took place in 2006, Paisley was to return to Northern Ireland to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary and McGuinness decides to accompany him during the car journey to the airport – although in reality Paisley’s celebration fell on the final day of the talks.
John Hurt makes an utterly believable MI5 agent (Harry Paterson) who has engineered their journey to the airport, arranging to bug the taxi driven by an undercover policeman (Freddy Highmore/Finding Netherland), unbeknownst to the two passengers. Meanwhile Toby Stevens plays a snarling and facetious Tony Blair who is listening in to the conversation, back at the hotel. But the car is involved in a planned collision leaving the two plenty of time to themselves while they ebulliantly thrash out their differences in a disused church in the heart of the glen.
Sadly this is a rather contrived piece of cinema that cherrypicks and tussles with the truth, jumbling historical facts. And for what? Hollowly humorous at times, and rather poignant as Hurt and McGuinness are now no longer alive, THE JOURNEY comes across as a rather trite final word from the main characters at the coalface of decades of murdering, mayhem and strife that was The Troubles – namely Eniskillen, Bloody Sunday and the 1979 murders of Airey Neave (who escaped from the Nazi’s Colditz) and Lord Louis Mountbatten . MT
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL UNTIL 10 SEPTEMBER 2016