6 Days review: Reviewed at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival, Toa Fraser’s true-life drama revolves around the real-life Iranian Embassy siege in April, 1980.
6 Days review by Dan Bullock.
6 Days is based on the real-life Iranian Embassy siege in April 1980 when terrorists stormed the building in London and held over 25 hostages in the hope of getting 91 Iranian prisoners released. Historically, the event is known for the clear intention given by Thatcher’s government, only a year into power, who wanted their message of ‘no negotiations’ to be in the forefront of the mind to anyone threatening the UK.
Directed by Toa Fraser, 6 Days begins as a slow-burner that jumps into life in the second half of the film, just as the interest begins to wane. There’s no doubt of intrigue but due to the nature of modern-day films, and siege scenarios being common in major crime thrillers, it initially feels like something we’ve seen before as the narrative goes through the usual motions, even with the precursor of it being based on real events.
Early on it’s difficult not to consider Ben Affleck’s Argo, which took place a year before in Tehran, but 6 Days does eventually find its own place within that era in the latter stages. It’s hard to believe that only Who Dares Wins (1982) sprung from this volatile time but these happenings were over-shadowed by the Iran-Iraq war and also the aforementioned Tehran hostage crisis. Consequentially 6 Days chooses to focus in on three specific people and the effect is has on them emotionally, psychologically and even on their future careers.
First up is Jamie Bell’s character Rusty Firmin, a real-life SAS soldier of 15 years who’s been posted there with his team and on ‘back-up’ if negotiations don’t go to plan. In real-life Rusty actually served as a technical advisor on the film and what’s different about this approach is that we get to see the plans and build-up to such an intense situation. Where most films simply throw us in with super savvy SWAT teams, 6 Days demonstrates the endurance and planning elements. It’s a different role for Bell but he slots in with his military team and always has an edge with a suggestion of an extra intelligence.
Hostage negotiator Max is played by the ever-impressive Mark Strong, the Police’s chief representative, who is eager to push on with a patient, softly, softly approach that will enable the Police to keep control, and stay away from violence. He gives an impeccably calm, focused and intelligent performance, demonstrating the more measured side of the policing in an age that wants to react quickly. His emotional connection to events is a clear indication of the reality and it’s smartly done, his character stands out above all.
The third main player is Abbie Cornish’s take on the real-life Kate Adie who’s very highly regarded to this day in the UK as a journalist and War correspondent. In fact, her siege coverage laid the early path to her career and was highly valued because of her bravery to remain in the action. While Cornish does play her with a specific focus and intelligence, and you get a sense of her commitment, she’s a little underused and doesn’t feel fully developed, especially when you consider her career beyond that moment.
Shot with in a musky, 80s manner, 6 Days tries to emulate the best of Le Carre’s style – in the sense of Tinker, Tailor… – but because of the slow start, it takes a while to get away from a standard crime thriller. Also due to the nature of time, this is a subject matter we’ve seen before and although by the end there’s some genuine, edge of your seat drama, whether you know the outcome of it all or not, it’s not necessarily one to stick in the mind unless you’re looking for a respectable military depiction played out on home soil.
6 Days review by Dan Bullock at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival.
6 Days will arrive on Netflix in late 2017.