I was drawn to this film as it starred Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney, two incredible character actors whose work I’ve admired for many years.
The Journey is the fictional dramatisation of a true event, in 2006 the first initial talks of the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement were being held in St Andrew’s Scotland. An incredibly precarious intense meeting between the two highly charged staunch political figures and their associates. However Dr Ian Paisley needed to return to Northern Ireland to attend the celebration of his golden wedding anniversary, bad weather closed the local airport but when a proposal to use a different airport was put to Martin MaGuinness he cited the protocol that he and Paisley must travel together to prevent any attempted assassination plot, thus the two men were driven to the airport where a private jet awaited them both.
Unbeknown to these two figures MI5 had one of their operatives as the driver, and had bugged the car with microphones and mini camera to listen to what the two men might discusse in hope of getting useable intelligence to help the talks progress. Initially neither man can bear to look at the other, neither wanting to give in and look/speak first either. Both despising the history, the past actions, the beliefs and hopes for the future, it seems impossible to find any uncontroversial common ground.
Timothy Spall as The Reverend Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, is astounding, his mastering of mannerisms and instantly recognisable voice and vocal manner is remarkable, along with the craft of make up and wardrobe completing an incredible transformation.
Colm Meaney as Martin MaGuinness the republican politician for Sinn Fein and leader of the Provisional IRA is captivating. There is a true sense of battle weary, concern that the movement and ‘the troubles’ are breeding another generation of soldiers without fully understanding the cause and reasoning. Fighting an unwinable civil war.
Even though I grew up during this era and vividly remember the news reports of street warfare, the terrorist bombings and numerous attacks, the core fight was not really understood or known, other than Catholic versus Protestant. Listening as these two enemies eloquently spoke of their experience through life, their earnest beliefs,
Without giving too much away, gradually through this journey there are cracks in their iron resolve, there are moments where the human comes out instead of the political representative, even moments of mirth, and a couple of plot twists which question what one thinks of the other.
As they are about to board the plane the two men speak alone, perhaps this is the moment when they can acknowledge that while they fervently disagree with each other they can at least respect each other’s passion and commitment.
It’s a film I feel I need to watch again, to enjoy what I know is coming and perhaps catch a few nuances I missed first time around.