Timothy Spall transforms himself as Ian Paisley, but there was no real need since the character is given little depth for Spall to fill. In Mr. Turner, at least, there was plenty to mine about the famous artist. Spall’s theatrics even go so far as hurting the rest of film because his Paisley is such a cartoonish performance that Colm Meaney’s subtler work as Martin McGuinness seems to belong in a different film entirely.
Spall isn’t the only cast member that’s cartoonish; Toby Stephens’ portrayal of Tony Blair is a lazy caricature of a disingenuous schemer. Such a performance might have been welcome several years ago, but today it comes across as lazy and smug, proving that nobody can touch the role except for Michael Sheen.
Even so, the actors aren’t entirely to blame as the execrable script by Colin Bateman is at the heart of the film’s problems. The dialogue reads like a school play rather than a political film. The script’s clumsy attempts to educate its audience about the Troubles means that these two senior political figures spout dialogue to each other like two history teachers. It makes no sense for these characters to be explaining events like the Remembrance Day bombings to each other.
Northern Ireland is an often-overlooked piece of world history; 2014’s ’71 did an admirable job at conveying some of the horrors of the Troubles, but The Journey does the Peace Process no justice. Such underrepresented events deserve far better than a poorly written mess like The Journey.
CAST: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Toby Stephens, John Hurt, Freddie Highmore, Catherine McCormack
DIRECTOR: Nick Hamm
WRITER: Colin Bateman
SYNOPSIS: A fictional account of the extraordinary story of two implacable enemies in Northern Ireland – firebrand Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness – who are forced to take a short journey together in which they will take the biggest leap of faith and change the course of history.