‘The Journey’ tells the story of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness overcoming their differences to establish a new Northern Ireland Executive. It is set during the peace talks at St. Andrews in Scotland in 2006. Political films aren’t generally of much interest to me however the featuring of two such well known figures as main characters did intrigue me, for the performances if nothing else.
It’s an ambitious task casting performers to play real life individuals for such substantial roles. I certainly could imagine Colm Meaney playing McGuinness and he does a great job of portraying him. It was Timothy Spall’s casting as Paisley that I was struggling with though. However, I had no need to worry as he’s tremendously believable in the role. Both leading actors have clearly invested time and effort in perfecting their roles and their performances deserve much praise. Aside from the two leads the rest of the cast deliver too. Toby Stephen’s plays past Prime Minister Tony Blair. At first I wasn’t convinced, mainly due to the lack of any real physical resemblance. Although once his first scene of public speaking arrived I was actually rather impressed with his portrayal. Like the leading actors Stephens also pays close attention to detail and nails the mannerisms of the previous political leader. John Hurt appears too in one of his posthumous releases. His performance reminds us of what a talent he was. Despite this his character seemed a bit odd, seemingly only really existing to explain the plot to the audience. Rounding off the main cast is child star, Freddie Highmore. Now considerably more grown up, Highmore has ounces of charisma and brings an unexpected sense of fun to the film.
Whilst I’ve nothing negative to say about the cast it’s unfortunately a different story for the narrative. My biggest issue about the film is that it’s just an imagination. Although it’s based on very true events the bulk of the film has literally been made up, this for me robs it of some credibility. It works as a piece of entertainment but something about it always seems unauthentic. Having a fictional plot about such an important factual period of history just never quite sat right with me. If you can accept the nature of the film there are plenty of elements to enjoy. The whole thing is strangely comedic. You’ll have to decide for yourself if this is entirely appropriate but it’s still undeniably funny. It does well to highlight many pivotal events from the history of the violence in Northern Ireland and succeeds somewhat in being a crash course in the troubles for those who have no prior knowledge. However, the physical car journey that the characters embark on does become slightly monotonous. With never ending obstacles to overcome before they reach their destination there comes a point in the film where you’re happy to leave them to finish this journey alone. When the finish line finally arrives you’ll be glad that you stuck it out although some of the accompanying information before the credits does seem slightly naive.
As a whole ‘The Journey’ is somewhat of an odd experience. It’s one part road trip comedy and one part political drama. I’m just not so sure that these two genres mix effectively. The performances are fantastic across the board and the film can’t be faulted on them. The individual elements work too, whether that be the comedy or the political information. However, as one cohesive film it too often feels awkward.
Rating – 6.5/10
Question: What is your favourite political drama?
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