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The Journey: First trailer as Paisley and McGuinness film premieres at Venice Film Festival

By Jonny Bell

The long-awaited Paisley and McGuinness film, The Journey, had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival - and we have the first trailer.

The film tells of the unlikely story of the friendship between the late Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

The fictional piece, stars Timothy Spall as the First Minister and Colm Meaney as his counterpart Martin McGuinness.

It also features the Oscar-nominated John Hurt, Toby Stephens who plays prime minister Tony Blair and Freddie Highmore.

Set before the 2006 St Andrews Agreement it tells the story of how the one-time enemies came together to herald the beginning of a new power-sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.

More: The Journey: Researching Ian Paisley ‘fascinating exercise’ - Timothy Spall

The two are forced to take a short journey together in which they will take the biggest leap of faith and change the course of history.

In the trailer, Paisley is seen on a pulpit in an unusual and crumbling church and McGuinness talking up to him, the two questioning how they arrived at this place.

McGuinness says: "We are here because we are on the verge of something the wider world will applaud but our own people will hate.

"You are being asked to betray your tribe and I have been asked to betray mine - that's all."

The film, a fictional account of the time, is directed by Belfast-born Nick Hamm and written by acclaimed Co Down author Colin Bateman. Production begin in September last year in parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland.

More: The Journey: Paisley and McGuinness friendship shows there is a way forward says Colm Meaney

And in its first reviews the film has received a mixed reaction.

Hollywood's leading movie publication Variety billed it as 'IRA v Unionist: Colm Meaney and Timothy Spall play clashing Northern Irish leaders in a juicy bit of backseat political theater'.

"It’s a juicy speculative two-hander, the sort of thing that might have been made about Nixon and Mao, or Reagan and Gorbachev, or — on a smaller scale — Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal."

Critic Owen Glieberman said it is like the political version of couple’s therapy with Timothy Spall stealing the show.

"The Journey, thanks to its buddy-movie structure, is destined to feel a little corny, but the movie gets at something real," he writes.

"[It] is a salute to what it looks like when people get sick enough of hate that they can finally, and gratefully, let it be."

Closer to home, The Telegraph - was not so complementary - describing it as a "graceless Wikipedian plod through the Irish peace process".

Again Spall is singled out for praise saying his "silver-haired and pacing around with that familiar polar bear stoop, gets Paisley’s physical mannerisms just right."

Meaney - with less to work with the critic Robbie Collin suggests - "gives a considered and tonally nimble performance regardless playing the Sinn Fein man’s convictions off against his regrets in a way that might have come off as deeply felt soul-searching under more favourable conditions".

He criticises the script and says the piece pales in comparison to the recent Bobby Sands: 66 Days.

"The Journey merely trundles round the talking points, tackling everything from Bloody Sunday to the hunger strikes at the same Wikipedian plod.

"And ultimately this journey runs out of fuel before it leaves the driveway."

While The Guardian - as with the Telegraph - gives the film two stars.

"A Journey. Actually it’s a strained, dramatically inert and often frankly silly odd-couple bromance fantasy about the Northern Ireland peace process negotiations," writes Andrew Pulver.

A general release date has yet to be set.

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