Nick Hamm's The Journey finds unexpected friendship and lasting political peace through an engaging showdown between adversaries who are separated by outlook and cause and yet linked by their shared belief in holding true to convictions. The contentious drama is also a shrewd study in how détente can be reached without anyone saying they're sorry. Set on a history-changing road trip, The Journey dramatizes a 2006 meeting between UK Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney). Screenwriter Colin Bateman takes this actual event and -- because he has no clue what truly transpired during the duo's trip -- concocts a make-believe dialogue between the bitter enemies, who are thrust together on a drive from peace talks in Scotland to an airport, where Paisley hopes to catch a flight to a party for his 50th wedding anniversary.
Along their route, which is steered by Freddie Highmore's undercover MI6 agent (taking cues from his boss, played by the late John Hurt), the morally righteous Protestant evangelical Paisley and the revolutionary true believer McGuinness articulate their positions on "the Troubles" with determined ferocity. The action's detours -- to a forest, a church and a gas station -- prove contrived and somewhat dully staged. However, the film is buoyed by its sharp, witty lead performances, with Spall's holier-than-thou imperiousness clashing suitably with Meaney's more affable obstinacy.