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The Journey

Official Selection-TIFF

Political rivals Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney) and Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) hadn't spoken to each other in 30 years.

As the respective leaders of Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein and Democratic Party, they had been the acceptable, public faces of the two sides involved in the country's "troubles". Then, in 2006, they were brought together by the British government for a summit to try and hammer out a peace deal.

Believing that "old men care about their legacy", MI5 boss  Harry Patterson (John Hurt) was convinced that this was the first time he'd felt there would be the chance of agreement. However, first they'd have to get over their poisonous past. For while Paisley questioned how you can have a discussion with someone who might murder you, McGuinness wondered what he had in common with a man who stood in the middle of the European Parliament and called the pope an antichrist. But just when the chance seems lost, divine intervention comes a calling.

Paisley's hopes of getting back to Belfast in time for his 50th wedding anniversary celebrations appear stymied by the closure of Glasgow Airport. Seeming salvation though comes in the form of a private British jet. There's just one catch – to avoid any chance of a terrorist attack from the other side, McGuinness will have to travel with him, providing a perfect chance to break the ice.

Screenwriter Colin Bateman's (TV's Murphy's Law) "what if it happened this way?" scenario is the ideal showcase for two fabulous character actors. Meaney (The Commitments) and Spall (Mr Turner) both deliver perfectly pitched performances that draw the viewer in and let them decide who has the more reasonable position.

Meaney's McGuinness is particularly engaging as he tries to charm his more irascible counterpart, initially with little success, stumbling over his words and seemingly causing more offence with every utterance. Meanwhile, following up his chilling turn as David Irving in Denial, Spall again does a terrific job in getting under the skin of his character, with plenty conveyed more by what Paisley doesn't say than what he does.

They are supported by a magnificent ensemble that includes Freddy Highmore (TV's Bates Motel), Toby Stephens (Die Another Day) and one last memorable turn from the late, great Hurt (Jackie).

A kind of a hybrid of Eye in the Sky and The Queen, with its mix of forensic detail and slight fantastical moments (there's another Elizabeth II-style epiphany involving wildlife), director Hamm's (2001 thriller The Hole) tale is also surprisingly witty, suggesting perhaps why these two supposedly intractable rivals eventually became known as "The Chuckle Brothers".

A very entertaining, enjoyable and engrossing journey.

Courtesy: James Croot,


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Directed by: 
Nick Hamm
Running Time: 
Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt, Freddie Highmore, Toby Stephens, Catherine McCormack
Official site: 
Screenplay by: 
Colin Bateman

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