The journey

The journey is based on the events that led to the 2006 peace agreement in Northern Ireland. The animosities are clearly laid out from the start. The leaders from the two sides arrive at the meeting. Down the hall is Rev. Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) leader of the Democratic unionist party (DUP). On the other side of the same hall stands Martin McGuiness (Colm Meaney). He turns to face Paisley. McGuiness is MP from the Sinn Féin party and a veteran leader of the Irish republican army (IRA). As the two men look at each other, there is nothing but disdain. They hate each other. Then they enter separate rooms to have two separate peace talks. That would be it, except that Ian Paisley has to leave his meeting to go celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. McGuiness agrees but only if he travels with Paisley. That way if they travel together, neither of them can be singled out for attack. The drive to the airport was long. We are told that it is unknown what was said during that trip. Screenwriter Colin Bateman imagines a conversation that might have changed the course of history. Paisley was an 80-year-old evangelical Protestant minister who hated Catholics. He called the IRA the Antichrist. And McGuiness doesn’t like what Rev. Paisley said about the Pope either. For Paisley, Martin McGuiness and the IRA, are terrorists responsible for the death of innocent people. He can even remember some the names of the victims. ”We were in a civil war”, McGuiness tells Paisley, adding that there were casualties on both sides. As a chauffeur they have baby-faced Jack (baby-faced Freddie Highmore). He’s been put there to spy on them by then Prime minister Tony Blair (Toby Stephens). They have also installed microphones and a camera. The excellent Sir John Hurt appears in one of his last films (he died last January from pancreatic cancer). Hurt plays the operative monitoring the drive and listening to the conversation. This is good acting from Spall and Meaney. The more showy role is Paisley. To play the 80-year-old, 60-year-old Spall has to put a lot of make up and prosthetics. But Meaney holds his own and plays the younger McGuiness as the more tempered and sound of the two statesmen. Colin Bateman has written a good balance of witty and profound repartees. Director Nick Hamm has put the whole thing together with style and a suspenseful build-up that is quite effective. It may not all be factual, but it is pleasurable nevertheless.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The journey

Directed by:
Nick Hamm

Screenplay by:
Colin Bateman

Starring:
Timothy Spall
Colm Meaney
Toby Stephens
John Hurt
Freddie Highmore
Ian Beattie

94 min.

’71

In Northern Ireland, the conflict between unionists (mostly Protestants who wanted to remain within the United Kingdom) and Irish nationalists (Catholics wanting to leave the United Kingdom to join a united Ireland) was at its most violent in 1970 through 1972. As we witness in ’71, Belfast was not the safest place. With bombings being a daily happening, deaths of innocent civilians rising, Belfast felt like hell. And it is in this hell that Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is dispatched, along with his squad of young army recruits, fresh out of training barracks. They’re kids. The young men are sent to Belfast to keep the peace while the local police are violently searching homes for firearms. There is a riot, and as the violence escalates, Gary is separated from his squad. He has to run for his life, when a group of young Nationalists are threatening to kill him. Lost in an unknown city, Gary tries to find a hiding place. He gets some help from local residents, but they too are in danger of losing their lives. While the trigger happy young Nationalists are still trying to find and kill Gary, older, more reasoned ones are trying to minimise the casualties. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Armitage wants to bring back Gary alive. He gets some help from some covert counter-insurgency unit. But by the end of ’71, we’re not too sure who to trust anymore. And when a mishandled bomb kill innocents, they all start blaming one another. It is a mess. This is a first film from Yann Demange, and he knows that he must keep us as confused as Gary. The young man is unsure who or what he is going to find around the every corner. And so are we. Things gets very tense. But, for a realistic war film, ’71‘s ending is too pat, too much like any Hollywood thriller. I oddly felt I was watching Fatal attraction. Gary, a scared, lost, injured, young soldier, who has to kill in order to survive is a perfect fit for a physical actor like Jack O’Connell. The masterful David Holmes score is the heart of the film. At the very least, it is Gary’s pulsating, throbbing heart, threatening to burst out of our own chest. It connects us to the film more than anything.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 ’71

Directed by:
Yann Demange
Screenplay by:
Gregory Burke
Starring:
Jack O’Connell
Sam Reid
Sean Harris
99 min.
Rated 14A