The Jour­ney

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - The Jour­ney Oslo,

Tec­tonic shifts in world events can turn on in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties. This is a premise that has long beguiled writ­ers, and we’ve seen it de­vel­oped in plays like A Walk in the Woods, the 1987 Pulitzer fi­nal­ist that dra­ma­tized an ex­tracur­ric­u­lar stroll taken by ne­go­tia­tors Paul H. Nitze (Amer­i­can) and Yuli A. Kvitsin­sky (Soviet) through the woods out­side Geneva in pur­suit of an arms break­through, or in the reign­ing Tony-win­ner which re­counts the back-chan­nel ne­go­ti­a­tions that pro­duced the 1990s Oslo Ac­cords be­tween Is­rael and the PLO.

Into this tem­plate steps direc­tor Nick Hamm, with an imag­in­ing of what might have tran­spired on a fate­ful ride shared by Ian Pais­ley (Ti­mothy Spall), the Ir­ish Demo­cratic Union­ist Party leader, and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuin­ness (Colm Meaney). The jour­ney takes them from the stalled 2006 North­ern Ire­land peace talks at Scot­land’s St. An­drews to the Ed­in­burgh air­port for a flight to Belfast, and from im­pla­ca­ble en­mity to a grudg­ing dé­tente and be­yond.

The for­mat in­sures that we’re in for a story heavy on di­a­logue, and screen­writer Colin Bate­man crafts some il­lu­mi­nat­ing ex­changes for the two men. He also en­gi­neers some strained plot-stretch­ing con­trivances that force the an­tag­o­nists into a woodsy walk and an en­ter­tain­ing stop at a petrol sta­tion. The film plays a bit fast and loose with ac­tual events, ac­cord­ing to those fa­mil­iar with the peace talks. Its am­bi­tion is not to be a doc­u­men­tary, but a fic­tional il­lus­tra­tion of how per­sonal re­la­tion­ships can af­fect his­tory.

trav­els on the backs of its two stars, and they make it well worth the trip. Meaney’s McGuin­ness, the for­mer IRA fire­brand, is the one ready to find an ac­com­mo­da­tion, prag­mat­i­cally open to a path to end the vi­o­lence. He gives his char­ac­ter a wry hu­mor and a long view, which over­lay a deep and burn­ing sense of the jus­tice of his cause. Spall’s Pais­ley veers to­ward car­i­ca­ture of the Bible-thump­ing, in­flex­i­ble Protes­tant leader, but ev­i­dence sug­gests that the man him­self was in­clined that way, and Spall is ter­rific in the role.

The film is stocked with a few other char­ac­ters — back at St. An­drews, Bri­tish prime min­is­ter Tony Blair (Toby Stephens) and a shad­owy MI5 chief ( John Hurt) head a gag­gle of of­fi­cials try­ing to mon­i­tor and steer the pro­ceed­ings via a hid­den cam­era in the van, and at the wheel is a young agent (Fred­die High­more) planted to keep an eye on things. But it’s all about Spall and Meaney, and if talk is your thing, it’s a good ride.

— Jonathan Richards

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