The Journey

Jul 8, 2017

Acting and suspense are first-rate in this engrossing historical drama.

The Journey

Image courtesy of IMDb.

Grade: A

Director: Nick Hamm (Killing bono)

Screenplay: Colin Bateman (Wild About Harry)

Cast: Timothy Spall(Secrets and Lies), Colm Meaney (The Damned United)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hr 34 min

by John DeSando

“These two are the Troubles.”

The “two” are Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall), the leader of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party, and Martin McGuiness (Colm Meaney), Sinn Fein politician and IRA operative, traveling together in a fictional hour of two-handed politics, whose interaction had the outcome of peace. The Journey, meticulously directed by Nick Hamm, is superb filmmaking that illuminates history and showcases transcendent acting.

Facing off each other with Paisley’s accurate condemnation of IRA violence and McGuiness’s hatred of Paisley’s rigid evangelical Protestantism, the two in the van on the way to the Glasgow airport dance around each other as they figure out how to survive their own arrogance and win a peace.  But as we know, an accord was made back then that ended 40 years of bloodshed and a unified Northern Ireland under the combined leadership of both men.

Although actors like Toby Stephens as Tony Blair and John Hurt as Harry Patterson could command any screen at any time, Spall and Meaney are so believable as to make you forget all other performances. Their job to let you see the growing friendship by small increments is marvelous to behold.

Applause, too, must be given for a production design that commands maximum intimacy and suspenseful plot distribution: The interior of the van becomes an intimate drawing room with no diplomats or functionaries to distract from the plan at hand; the brief time to get to the airport has the properties of a digital readout in a heist movie—everyone is aware that the handshake may not happen if the van gets to the plane on time or too late.

The Journey is required for those who love first-rate acting and those who want to feel history in the making. For anyone else, it is the antidote to the summer blockbuster.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at