The Journey

Think about a movie called The Journey. What sort of genre would you think that movie is?

Well, first, I know I would think of maybe…adventure? Yeah. Adventure. If not an adventure film, maybe a war/action movie. If not a war/action movie, then something spiritual, a religious film. If you thought historical drama, I would think you were a liar, and I would no longer make bets with you.

And that is what The Journey is. A “True story” or, a true-ish story. But I will get into detail on that.

Walk
The journey they speak of is more of a drive and a walk through the woods.

Northern Ireland and Ireland have had a lot of issues in the past. Religious stuff which led to extremism which led to people bombing places, straight up government based military groups, to get people to see different points of view and you know…go on a war basically. It also led to this song from The Irish Rovers about a dysfunctional marriage.

This is set after a lot of the physical conflict, when people were still pissed, in the mid-2000’s. The territories were on the verge of creating a new agreement, to put a lot of the past behind them. Not rejoin as one unified country or anything, but at least start working together better and look more unified (I think, hard for me to tell as a non European).

Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) is the head of the Catholic people, and Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney), former member of the IRA, is I guess leader of the protestants now. Honestly the whole thing is fuzzy to me what their titles are, but they have the ability to enact change. On the verge of the agreement being signed, Paisley has to return to his home for a celebration on his 50th Wedding Anniversary. The other side is worried that when he gets back with his people, they will convince him that the agreement is bad and he will pull out last minute.

Thank the weather gods, they have cancelled Paisley’s flight, and to show a sign of goodwill, the other side agrees to let him use their plane in Edinburgh for him to get home. But, McGuinness argues he must join him on the trip. Due to rules of travel, if both leaders are in the same vehicle, it is unlikely that anyone will try something nefarious. McGuinness and others think that if they get Paisley talking, they can find common interests between them and really work out and finalize this agreement.

The problem is, these gentlemen have never talked before in their lives. But this journey to their airport, and plane ride, will be their last chance to pull this thing together.

Also starring Freddie Highmore, John Hurt, Toby Stephens, Ian McElhinney, Ian Beattie, and Barry Ward.

Bate
And if they don’t agree quickly, Norman Bates will finish the job!

In real life, this agreement did take place. And in real life, these two people never talked to each other or cared for each other. In real life, they did take a car ride and plane ride together, and in real life, they suddenly became really close friends. And in real life, both of them are now dead.

The things that might not be real include their stops on their journey and the events that happened to them along the way, like the flat tire. The things that definitely did not occur is any of the conversation they decided to highlight in the film. It is a complete guess, it is where the storytellers can become storytellers. To guess the sort of conversation these great men might have had, how they would have acted towards each other, and how they would have slowly come to terms.

I am not saying it is bad that they are guessing, just setting the picture, because I obviously don’t need my movies to be 100% factual all the time. I do like my movies to be entertaining, or at the very least feature some nice acting moments.

I went in expecting I would be bored out of my mind throughout this film, but it surprisingly kept my interest once it got going. It wasn’t entirely easy to follow all the time, because of referring back to historical events that have no effect on my upbringing, but that is okay. I became involved with what they were saying and felt like a passenger in the vehicle.

And yet I could still only describe this film as okay. I would never watch it again, and I would never really recommend it to anyone. Spall and Meaney do some pretty good acting based on their previous works that I know of, and definitely give it their best jobs. But I am still just left asking why this movie was made, as, historical, this significance doesn’t mean squat to me.

2 out of 4.

Silence

What’s that? Do you hear that? Shhh, listen!

That’s right, that is the sound of Silence, blistering in the wind.

It is also the sound of Martin Scorsese, old and still not giving a fuck. He is making movies that he wants to make and he is making him epic. When his last film came out, The Wolf of Wall Street, it was hacked down to 3 hours from a much larger length. And the same was true for Silence.

It ended up around 2:41, making it just a few minutes shorter than American Honey, and thankfully the only two films to be pretty darn long this year. But on average, the movie lengths have still probably gone up. You know, thanks to the behemoth that is O.J.: Made In America.

Priests
And this is just a sign of the behemoth that Garfield’s hair will become.

In the mid-1600’s, we meet a couple of priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver). They are young and have strong hearts for Jesus in their Monastery in Portugal. From another Father (Ciaran Hinds), they find out that Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), their former mentor and teacher, was still alive in Japan.

But he was no longer there to try and and convert a nation. He apparently has actually denounced his faith and is living there a Buddhist now. Shocking rumors, for sure, but his last letter was from a long time ago, and about Christians being tortured and killed.

Strong in their faith, the two priests decide to head to Japan, a very anti-Christian nation. Not only to find the missing priest, but to see what became of his life, try their best to not get killed, and also maybe restore Christianity to the nation that was flourishing with followers just decades ago.

Including a major role from YĆ“suke Kubozuka as Kichijiro, a secret Christian with a weak mind, Issei Ogata as the main Inquisitor, and also Tadanobu Asano, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, and Yoshi Oida.

Guy
Speak softly, confess frequently, and carry a regular sized stick.

Silence, despite its gargantuan length, starts captivating very early on. You don’t get bogged down in Portugal. After two quick scenes and Ferreira’s letter, our boys are in China, meeting a guide to the island. And once there, they are basically smugglers, only able to come out at night, not sure who they can trust.

It is just a very tense film where it feels like anything can happen. Loosely based off of a real individual, the story is very personal and it made me start to feel like I was there with the priests. By having the point of view specifically with Garfield’s character, all of the fears and mysteries are revealed when he finds out the truth. The truth about Ferreira, about any of his friends when they are away, about who to trust, just everything. It is a great journey, even with large swaths of it involve him hiding up in some cave or shack or building.

The film also features some incredible shots of jungles, mountains, and seas. It is fully immersive in 1600’s Japan and creates a wonderful experience regardless of the story.

And yes, it is a film about Christianity and how right or wrong religion is at certain parts of the world. And no, it is never a problem. This year was a great comeback for “Religious films”. Yes, we had God’s Not Dead 2 and I’m Not Ashamed, the normal cheesy crap. But Miracles From Heaven ended up really average, which is something positive. And along with Silence we of course had Hacksaw Ridge.

Can you believe it? In a span of a few months, Andrew Garfield starred in two extremely good religious films about Christianity and someone sticking to his faith and principals against incredible odds and struggles. What the hell are the chances there, that two films like that, could get 4 out of 4’s? This is the direciton the genre needs to go, and Scorsese and Gibson gave a giant push in that direction.

4 out of 4.

Elvis & Nixon

Presidents in the modern era meet with almost everyone. Celebrities, athletes, civil rights leaders, union leaders, foreign leaders, gym leaders, you name it. So it isn’t weird to see a picture of Obama hanging out with Justin Bieber.

But maybe back in the day it was a bit more odd. Like, a famous picture of Elvis Presley shaking hands with Richard Nixon. One of the biggest entertainers of the last few decades and a president with a lot of…well, character, I guess. It was a really famous image and sort of set the country into jubilee at just the thought of these two larger than life men in a single room talking about who knows what.

And just what led to this monumental meet up and what did they talk about?

Well, it would take a movie named Elvis & Nixon to get to the bottom of it I suppose!

Meeting
This really just feels like fanfiction. Who wrote this? When do they get undressed?

In 1970, the US was in disarray. There was a war going on that not everyone loved, the parties were divided, drugs were big in the news and in our suburbs. Basically, not too different from today.

But one man was sick and tired of it all. His name was Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon). He was tired of these drugs, these gang fights, people stoned at concerts. He was in the army before and people loved him, so he figured he could go undercover as himself, into their events and protests. And maybe convince them to say no to drugs and put an end to it all. He could be a really big help, hell, he knew karate!

So he wants to head to the White House. He has a damn plan. He will talk to President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey), he will convince him to swear him in as a federal agent at large to work secretly for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Brilliant, great, wonderful. Except Nixon didn’t care to meet with him. Even if a meeting could boost his popularity with the youth and the south. Except Elvis doesn’t want to hold a concert, he wants it all to be a secret, no publicity.

Sure, these men might not see eye to eye, but they want similar things, so maybe they can work together. Or maybe their assistants and staff can force them to work together. On Elvis’ side, we have Jerry (Alex Pettyfer) and Sonny (Johnny Knoxville), with Jerry trying to get out of working with Elvis to focus on his own life and maybe engagement. The president aides include Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Chapin (Evan Peters), both people later involved with the Watergate scandal, fun fact!

And so yeah, the meeting is of course them setting everything up and what their conversation may have entailed in that mysterious room.

Handshake
Here is a picture of a recreation of that picture!

Two powerhouse men can only be played by two powerhouse actors, and we certainly get that with Shannon and Spacey. When I saw the casting, I was almost flabbergasted with excitement. To repeat, almost flabbergasted, not fully flabbered nor gasted. Despite loving each actor from many of their recent and older roles, I still found both of them hard to see in their collective role.

Now, in this film, they both did great jobs. But Shannon has such a unique face, I never really fully believed he was Elvis, he was always an actor. Basically the same for Spacey. For both of these roles, it could be due to the fact that these characters over time have become very exaggerated and in real life they weren’t so intense, but it just never really fully clicked.

The story itself is decently amusing. The cast of characters while small added a lot to the film. The movie is also under 90 minutes long, so it never drags and a good third or more to it is actually focused on their actual discussion in the white house.

The film just has a lot of build up for this moment and honestly, doesn’t go too many places. Elvis & Nixon won’t take up a lot of time and is pretty amusing. Hell, you will learn a lot about an event that is just all sorts of weird in American history. But one that never really elevated more than cool tidbit.

2 out of 4.