The Journey (3 stars)

The Journey

This fictional account of the Northern Ireland peace process stars Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney

We probably shouldn't believe a word of The Journey. Brazenly entering the same territory as Peter Morgan (The Queen), screenwriter Colin Bateman speculates that the fate of the Northern Ireland peace process hinged on a brief journey between St. Andrews and Edinburgh airport.

Obliged to share a limousine, Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney) banter and bicker, vent their grievances and struggle towards common ground as they travel from sworn enemies to grudging allies. It would be comforting to discover that this is exactly what happened but, given that the film is cheekily pitched somewhere between an odd couple comedy and a fairytale bromance, it might be better to swallow it all with a pinch of salt.

The saving graces of The Journey are a succession of sharp, funny one-liners and the two central performances. In real life, Spall looks nothing like the late Paisley and is considerably younger than the man he portrays. In the film, Spall captures the physical mannerisms of Paisley and his unyielding bulldog manner to perfection. He emphasises that clench-teethed determination, the righteous anger that is never far from the surface and an unexpected humour that is delivered with a dry gurgle of satisfaction, like rainwater disappearing down a drain.

Meaney's McGuinness seems a more buffoonish figure than one might have imagined but he makes the most of the man's calculated charm and weary exasperation. A fine ensemble cast also includes the late John Hurt as a secret service veteran and Toby Stephens as a glib, flustered Tony Blair, who seems to have walked in from the set of Yes Minister. The Journey can seem crass but it does deliver some effective moments and, despite many misgivings, it is extremely entertaining.

Selected release from Fri 5 May.

The Journey

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • UK
  • 1h 34min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Nick Hamm
  • Cast: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Toby Stephens, John Hurt
  • UK release: 5 April 2017

While sharing a limousine, Ian Paisley (Spall) and Martin McGuinness (Meaney) banter, bicker, vent grievances and struggle towards common ground. Fictional account of the Northern Ireland peace process with fine performances; sometimes crass but effective and entertaining.