The Journey is only an average drama, but it has one element that is indisputably outstanding -- the powerful, magnetic performance of Yul Brynner. Brynner is so good, in fact, that it's rather surprising that Journey has become an almost totally forgotten film. The actor was always charismatic, a fact that could sometimes work against him in other films, when he would steal focus in a way that worked both to his and the film's detriment. Director Anatole Litvak keeps that under control here -- and besides, the character itself has such a central role that focus naturally goes to him. Brynner doesn't coast on his magnetism here, nor on the sensuality that manages to be simultaneously open and guarded. His Russian officer is -- very surprisingly for the era -- quite sympathetic and entirely human. In the actors' hands, he is a complete person, and a very engaging one. None of this is to give short shrift to co-star Deborah Kerr, who is quite good and makes sure that Brynner doesn't steal her scenes. But her character is less developed somehow; despite efforts to give her depth, the writing of her character simply doesn't come together the way it is intended to. And much of the supporting cast, good though they are, also have to contend with characters that don't quite ring true. The Journey is supposed to be a Grand Hotel-ish experience, but the strands don't weave into a tapestry as intended. Still, it's worth viewing for Brynner's marvelous forgotten performance.
by Craig Butler review