Strange car-fel­lows take on ‘The Trou­bles’

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT - OWEN GLEIBERMAN

IT’S THE most die-hard formula in movies (in fact, they once made a Die Hard movie out of it). Two men are thrown to­gether who re­ally, se­ri­ously don’t like each other. One is a rule-bust­ing rebel, the other an up­tight fault­finder, and the two are forced to ride around in the same ve­hi­cle.

They taunt and razz and nee­dle, and they laser-in on each other’s weak points, but be­cause they have to spend so much time to­gether, their hos­til­ity be­gins to melt – grudg­ingly at first, then less so than ei­ther would care to ad­mit. Af­ter a while, they’re work­ing to­gether be­cause they have to – but also be­cause they know they share the same goal. And maybe that means they aren’t re­ally so dif­fer­ent. Deep down, they’ve come to like each other; they might even be friends.

The Jour­ney fol­lows ev­ery trope in the book, and does so with pleas­ing fire­works and fi­nesse, though with one sig­nif­i­cant twist: the film’s cen­tral char­ac­ters aren’t cliché Hol­ly­wood cops. They’re the true-life war­rior politi­cians who ne­go­ti­ated the land­mark 2006 peace agree­ment in North­ern Ire­land, wind­ing down “The Trou­bles” to what was (in the­ory) an of­fi­cial end­point.

In the scold­ing/con­ser­va­tive/ up­tight cor­ner we have Dr Ian Pais­ley (played, un­der ki­los of make-up, by Ti­mothy Spall), the 80-year-old founder and leader of the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, a proudly prud­ish evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tant min­is­ter who would no more coun­te­nance the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of Ire­land than he would agree to say the Earth is flat. Pais­ley has been bat­tling the Ir­ish Repub­li­can Army for close to 40 years and will not stand down. To him, the IRA is the An­tichrist, and so is ev­ery­one in it.

In the other cor­ner, the imp­ish/bad-boy/ras­cal one, we have Martin McGuin­ness (Colm Meaney), the Sinn Fein MP and vet­eran leader of the IRA (though, of course, he won’t ad­mit that of­fi­cially), who rose up in the or­gan­i­sa­tion in the af­ter­math of Bloody Sun­day, the Jan­uary

30, 1972 mas­sacre in which Bri­tish sol­diers shot and killed 13 North­ern Ir­ish civil­ian pro­test­ers.

He has been fight­ing the Union­ist side since he was in his teens, and he will not stand down. To him, Ian Pais­ley is the An­tichrist, a po­lit­i­cal and reli­gious tyrant who stands for op­pres­sion with an iron grip. Pais­ley and McGuin­ness de­spise each other, and have for decades. Yet the two have never met (Pais­ley has re­fused McGuin­ness’s en­treaties), and they have come to­gether in St An­drews, Scot­land, to ham­mer out an agree­ment.

When they first see each other, on the way to the meet­ing room, the sound­track is flooded with throb­bing drums to un­der­score the mo­men­tous­ness of the oc­ca­sion. But this is one prize­fight that both men are go­ing to win – or they’ll both lose. And there’s a lo­gis­ti­cal quirk at play: the sum­mit meet­ing over­laps the cel­e­bra­tion of Pais­ley’s 50th wed­ding an­niver­sary in Belfast, and he is so chival­rously de­voted to his wife that he in­sists on go­ing.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the IRA have no prob­lem with that. But McGuin­ness, hew­ing to a tra­di­tion that dic­tates that lead­ers in this con­flict travel to­gether (so that one of them can’t be sin­gled out for at­tack), in­sists on go­ing with Pais­ley. The two are driven to the Glas­gow Air­port by a boy­ish chauf­feur (Fred­die High­more) who is ac­tu­ally an MI5 plant.

The car is also rigged with sur­veil­lance ap­pa­ra­tus that al­lows Tony Blair (Toby Stephens) and a hand­ful of Bri­tish and North­ern Ir­ish of­fi­cials back at sum­mit head­quar­ters to wit­ness ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on. It’s all a set-up, with the im­pla­ca­ble Pais­ley as prey.

Writ­ten by Colin Bate­man and di­rected by Nick Hamm,

The Jour­ney, as an open­ing ti­tle ac­knowl­edges, is a made-up drama about what was said that day. The fan­tasy be­ing ped­dled by a film like The Jour­ney is that pol­i­tics is per­son­al­ity: if we just get to know the peo­ple in­volved, we will touch the hid­den truth of his­tory.

But in this case, the con­ceit re­ally holds wa­ter be­cause Ian Pais­ley, with his stern Union­ist fa­nati­cism, was one of the ar­chi­tects of the Ir­ish con­flict, and an IRA free­dom fighter like Martin McGuin­ness staked his moral­ity on ev­ery car bomb.

“Th­ese two are The Trou­bles,” says one of­fi­cial. Whether or not they can get along is, on some level, what the whole con­flict is about. The Jour­ney is a salute to what hap­pens when peo­ple get sick enough of hate that they can fi­nally just let it be. – Va­ri­ety

The Jour­ney.

Colm Meaney and Ti­mothy Spall in

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