Belfast-born director Nick Hamm (Killing Bono) has shoehorned a bunch of talented actors into this thing, from Toby Stephens (Tony Blair) to the late John Hurt (MI-5 head Harry Patterson), but The Journey often feels more like wishful thinking than a credible recreation of real-life events. And that's a problem when you're a member of its target audience (my grandfather was a member of the IRA), though the events certainly merit documentation. Working from Colin Bateman's script, Hamm imagines the 2006 discussions that took place in St. Andrews, Scotland between Northern Ireland opposition leaders Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall, aged to look like an octogenarian) and Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney, looking much the same as he did in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as they set out to put an end the Troubles and forge a Peace Agreement.
At the time, it was unthinkable that a Catholic Republican would negotiate with a Protestant Unionist, but four decades of death and destruction had taken its toll. The film pivots on a conversation in a limo driven by Freddie Highmore (making the most of a small role) as an MI-5 agent in disguise. As the actors play them, McGuinness is a wise-cracking pragmatist and Paisley is a humorless bigot.
The performances are sufficiently engaging, but the My Dinner with André approach fails to stir the emotions quite like Steve McQueen's visceral Hunger or Paul Greengrass's devastating Bloody Sunday. Still, McGuinness sums up the peace process perfectly when he states, "We're here, because we're on the verge of something the wider world will applaud, but our own people will hate."
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