Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Journey

A couple of friends are re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine right now, and both apparently hit "Miles O'Brien must suffer" episodes this weekend, which served as a nice reminder of just how much I love Colm Meaney, nicely timed to this showing up at the Coolidge and probably being the one non-spaghetti western movie I could fit in between baseball and travel this weekend. It certainly reminded me to pay attention to one of my favorite actors, though.

(Aside: How do people commit to watching 150 episodes of television they've already seen in compressed fashion? There's so much good new stuff that even if I could find the time to watch 2-3 hours more than I do per day, it seems like a huge opportunity cost!)

Alas, it wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped; it starts out okay but slips into bland territory an awful lot. It's interesting subject matter and good performances, but not pulled together great. I do kind of wish that I'd felt a little more like powering through another movie and/or that The Bad Batch was playing on a different screen that night - it was a decent turnaround, but I was pretty wiped and I never get a good seat in the Screening Room.

The Journey

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 26 June 2017 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run, DCP)

There are many far worse reasons to make or see a film than the promise of Colm Meaney talking to someone for an hour and a half, something that gets more enticing when the other person in the road trip movie is Timothy Spall. Add a little John Hurt to the mix and it almost doesn't matter that the stakes to this conversation going well are huge. If it had a little more to recommend it than that great cast, it might really be something.

It takes place during the 2006 peace talks in Glasgow, looking to find a permanent solution to The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The two main parties to this negotiation are Ian Paisley (Spall), a Presbyterian minister who has been a hard-line Unionist for decades, and Martin McGuinness (Meaney), alleged to once be head of operations for the IRA but now in a much more legitimate role in Sinn Fein. Paisley is planning to return to Belfast for his fiftieth anniversary, but the weather has the airport closed. He may be able to take a private flight out of Edinburgh, but protocol dictates that people of equal rank fly together, which is how Paisley and McGuinness wind up in a van with driver Jack (Freddie Highmore), with Prime Minister Tony Blair (Toby Stephens) and MI-5 veteran Harry Patterson (Hurt) hoping that maybe this will get the two mortal enemies talking.

Unfortunately, this particular chat isn't all that it can be. The filmmakers seem to have thrown their support behind Meaney's chatty, openly peace-seeking McGuinness rather than Spall's grumpy Paisley, so there's seldom an interesting exchange of ideas going on. By mostly confining the action to the car, the filmmakers give themselves relatively few ways to demonstrate the irony that the gregarious McGuinness has historically been a man of violence or that Paisley's blunt, paranoid persona hides a gift for manipulation beyond what the accusations they hurl at one another. They contrast too much, and on top of that, writer Colin Bateman and director Nick Hamm seem a bit reluctant to frame it as McGuinness needing to convince Paisley; as much as that's what's happening, Paisley doesn't feel enough like a hard nut to crack.

Full review on EFC.

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