Movie reviews: The Journey, Mindhorn, Sleepless

Here are the top three films you don’t want to miss this week, writes Declan Burke.

The Journey 4/5

Mindhorn 3/5

Sleepless 2/5

 

Set at a crisis point in Northern Ireland’s peace negotiations, The Journey (12A) imagines a car journey taken by the DUP’s Dr Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney), both acutely aware that the ‘hand of history’ lies heavily upon their shoulders.

Written by Colin Bateman and directed by Nick Hamm, The Journey’s scenario is rather theatrical: trapped in a confined space, the two men have little else to do than talk to one another, however reluctantly; and yet the dramatic device is entirely apt given the historical context, in which two implacable enemies occupied the same suffocatingly claustrophobic space.

McGuinness, meanwhile, has an agenda, desperate to persuade Paisley to accept the IRA’s bona fides before Paisley reaches his political heartland, where the tiny gains already made in the negotiations will undoubtedly be lost to an ‘Ulster Says No’ rhetoric. 

It’s an absorbing and nuanced tale of realpolitik, as Dr Paisley struggles with trust issues and the prospect of betraying his life’s work; meanwhile, McGuinness haltingly outlines his own progress from gunman to peacemaker.

Meaney and Spall work very well together, their chemistry evident despite the characters’ hunched shoulders and mutual suspicion, although Spall takes the laurels with a superb turn which explores the human side of the political firebrand Dr Paisley, and especially in hinting at the subversive sense of humour that would come to the fore when the former foes, now at peace, travelled the world billed as ‘the Chuckle Brothers’. 

Surprisingly funny, albeit starkly poignant at times, The Journey is a hugely affecting re-imagining of the origins of contemporary Ireland’s most important friendship.

Once the popular TV detective Mindhorn (15A), Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) is a washed-up actor who ekes out a living advertising men’s girdles. 

But when a deranged killer strikes on the Isle of Man, and declares that he will only deal with his idol, Mindhorn, Thorncroft is called back into action. 

Co-written by Barratt and Simon Farnaby, and directed by Sean Foley, Mindhorn is a comedy that somehow manages to be squalidly charming. 

Barratt is in fine form as the fading Thorncroft, a man whose ego and ambition outstrip his ability by a good parasang or two, but who remains doggedly certain that fame and fortune are still his for the taking. 

The plot, such as it is, involves Thorncroft trying to rekindle some passion with his old flame and former co-star, Patricia Deville (Essie Davies), who is now married to Mindhorn’s stuntman, the Dutch poseur Clive (Farnaby), whilst simultaneously tracking down the killer, who calls himself The Kestrel (Russell Tovey).

It’s laugh-out-loud funny in places, and particularly in those scenes where Thorncroft and Clive joust for Patricia’s affections, but for the most part Mindhorn has the feel of a mildly amusing TV movie, the humour uneven and at times deployed as a very blunt instrument.

Cameos from Simon Callow, Kenneth Branagh and Steve Coogan help to jolly things along, however, and while Mindhorn is by no means the comic cult classic it seems to think it is, it delivers enough laughs to keep things ticking over to the end.

Sleepless (12A) opens in Las Vegas, with partners Vincent (Jamie Foxx) and Sean (Tip Harris) stealing a cocaine shipment in a lethal hail of gunfire. 

Trouble is, Vincent and Sean are a pair of dirty cops, and they’ve stolen drugs belonging to a heavyweight outfit fronted by the psychotic Bob Novak (Scoot McNairy). 

When Novak kidnaps Vincent’s son Thomas (Octavius J Johnson), Vincent has only hours to retrieve the cocaine from Sean and save Thomas’s life; but they’ve all reckoned without the efforts of Detective Bryant (Michelle Monaghan), an internal affairs cop hot on the trail of Vincent and Sean.

Adapted by Andrea Berloff from Frédéric Jardin’s Nuit blanche, and directed by Baran bo Odar, Sleepless is a pacy thriller chock-a-block with incident, twists and reversals, and yet somehow still manages to be the most dull, by-the-numbers thriller you’ll see this year. 

It’s a tough one to pull off, but Baran bo Odar seems to have crammed every action movie cliché you can think of into the mix, and may well have invented one or two clichés to fill any outstanding gaps. 

Matters aren’t helped by Jamie Foxx’s wooden turn in the lead role and the fact that Michelle Monaghan, the only actor to display any kind of emotional intelligence, spends most of the time on the sidelines, although the main issue is a plot that strains credulity at every turn. 

Nasty, brutish and mercifully short, Sleepless may well prove a decent cure for insomnia.


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