In real life, Paisley and McGuinness are known as the Chuckle Brothers, which would lead me to believe they found something more hilarious between them than one or two giggles by the end. Most of their time is spent in the car, casually arguing with one another on everything from religious laws to Samuel L. Jackson. It’s a little hard to believe McGuinness would bring up Snakes on a Plane when speaking with a religious leader. That seems like a conversation better suited for their future days of reconciliation.
To be fair, very strong actors play the two roles. Colm Meaney plays McGuinness with a subtle amount of emotion and antagonism, while Timothy Spall practically melts into his role as the pudgy and grouchy Paisley. Both of them feel like characters built for an opposites-attract comedy, if only they had a better comedic premise than a road trip. I forgot to mention that this road trip to the airport was not just a matter of circumstance, but a secret operation ordered by the MI5 chief Harry Patterson (John Hurt) and Prime Minister Tony Blair (Toby Stephens), complete with a fake security driver chatting with them over his earpiece.
Again, these characters are set up here to be more comedic for watching the potential Chuckle Brothers like a soap opera via hidden cameras. But when John Hurt continuously speaks into the ear of the driver in on the operation, babbling about the history of the country’s civil war and the importance that these two come together, it reeks of being both bad melodrama and an inappropriate biopic.
Stops are staged on the journey to give the movie something to do. A tire blows out and McGuinness and Paisley wander around the woods. They find a dying deer and discuss putting it out of its misery. They find a church and have a brief discussion of sermons and frailty. It’s a sharp contrast to the more comedic scenes in the car where McGuinness tries to pester Paisley, making games about guessing which movie Paisley last saw in 1973. Neither of these tones hit, despite both Meaney and Spall trying to put their all into these roles with a very poor script attached.