Review: ‘The Journey’ leaves history in the rearview
What really led to Northern Ireland’s peace agreement? Your guess is as good as ‘The Journey’s’
Road trips are great equalizers. But can they bring peace to a divided nation?
That’s the conceit of “The Journey,” a forced and often preposterous imagining of the meeting that led to the 2006 St. Andrews Agreement, a political pact between opposing parties in Northern Ireland.
In 2006, former IRA chief and Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness met with staunch religious fundamentalist and Democratic Unionist Party founder Ian Paisley to discuss a peace accord. That much is true. “The Journey” fills in the rest of the gaps as it sees fit, turning their tale into a hackneyed “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” tale that is nonetheless buoyed by its strong lead performances.
Colm Meaney plays McGuinness and Timothy Spall is Paisley, forced into a car together in the middle of peace talks. In “The Journey’s” admittedly fictitious version of events, that vehicle is wired up like a cab on “Taxicab Confessions” as Tony Blair (Toby Stephens), Harry Patterson (John Hurt) and other political leaders watch along on monitors as a planted driver (Freddie Highmore) eggs the two political rivals on in conversation. Still on board? Then you’ll love the part where they take a detour through the woods and conveniently happen upon an abandoned church, or when Paisley spits a fiery sermon on a gas station attendant when a pay-at-the-pump reader goes down.
Since we’re making things up, why not just have them go play skeeball together at the arcade, and throw in a few unicorns as well? “The Journey” has fun playing make believe, but its execution cheapens history and distills fundamental ideological differences into treacly teachable moments.
Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements including violent images and language
Running time: 94 minutes