Nick Hamm’s “The Journey” makes clear at the beginning that the film is an “imagining” of a real event that took place in 2006. We aren’t to believe that what we’re about to see is true.
That real event is the meeting of Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall), a deeply conservative British loyalist, and Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney), a former Irish Republican Army leader. The two men had been at opposite sides of the political spectrum for decades but signed the St. Andrews Agreement that year, along with the British and Irish governments.
The film, however, imagines that the two shared a long car ride that allowed them an extended conversation, most of which is contentious banter. Over the course of the ride, they manage to find a bit of common ground. The point, it seems, is that polar political opposites are capable of getting along at least to some degree.
While the men did come to an agreement 11 years ago, the premise of the film is implausible. It’s the performances that make it worth seeing. In the hands of Meaney and Spall, it’s like watching a boxing match between Ali and Frazier.
Written by Colin Bateman, the film costars the late John Hurt, Toby Stephens, and Freddie Highmore. “The Journey” opens in New York on Fri., June 16, 2017.