×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘6 Days’

Covering the 1980 terrorist invasion of London's Iranian Embassy, Toa Fraser's true-life thriller is technically adept but dramatically muted.

Director:
Toa Fraser
With:
Mark Strong, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Bell, Tim Pigott-Smith, Emun Elliott, Martin Shaw, Ronan Vibert, Martin Hancock, Tim Downie, Nicholas Boulton, Aymen Hamdouchi, Toby Leach, Robert Portal.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4703048/

“A renaissance for international terrorism” is among the archival newscast quotes used to set the scene in the opening credits of “6 Days” — a true-life hostage thriller methodically tracking the 1980 siege of London’s Iranian Embassy by Iranian Arab militants. The unhappy irony, of course, is that few viewers would be able to identity any particular era from that soundbite, and Toa Fraser’s lean, cleanly assembled dramatization is in its own way resistant to historical specifics: Shot and styled in contemporary, ticking-clock action fashion, it compresses the complex Theatcher-era politics of its fractious standoff into a simplified West-versus-Middle-East conflict that registers as broadly topical.

Technically smart but dramatically a bit flat — with a triangulated multi-view structure that gives stars Mark Strong, Jamie Bell and Abbie Cornish minimal room to flex — “6 Days” establishes Fraser’s credentials as a viable handler of mainstream genre fare, but comes as something of a disappointment after the livelier exploits of his rollicking Maori adventure “The Dead Lands.” Following limited theatrical exposure, it is likeliest to find an audience through home-viewing channels: Generations who watched firsthand the landmark BBC reporting on the crisis, here honored by way of Cornish’s casting as gutsy newswoman Kate Adie, will be most interested in the film’s mildly pumped-up interpretation.

Younger or less informed viewers, however, won’t take long to figure out the essentials of the situation, as detailed subtitles in the film’s opening beats introduce key names, responsibilities and locations — lending the film a veneer of docu-style thoroughness without calling on Glenn Standring’s pared-back script to do much in the way of ground-laying or character introduction. Indeed, “6 Days” gets down to business with swift, cool-headed economy: Its opening minutes depict the violent takeover of the Iranian Embassy in London’s upscale Kensington district by six gunmen from Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan, with 26 hostages taken in the process. Scored by Lachlan Anderson and David Long to low, surging synths and stabs of percussion, this nervy, unfussy sequence remains the film’s most impressive.

The terrorists, however, barely come into focus after this agitated introduction, their individual identities skimmed over while their nuanced cause — a campaign for Arab sovereignty in Iran’s Khuzestan Province — is outlined in shorthand. Instead, Standring’s script rotates the perspectives of three unconnected British participants in the fracas: Max Vernon (Strong), the police inspector charged with leading the hostage negotiations; Rusty Firmin (Bell), a lance corporal in the SAS military team waiting in the wings should more peaceful negotiating tactics fail; and Adie, the brave public face of the story for viewers at home, but not a figure for which the film ever finds a clear narrative purpose — though the petty squabbling between rival reporters on the sidelines provides the film’s few moments of levity.

Strong’s anxious, one-on-one telephone exchanges with chief terrorist Salim (a fine Ben Turner) providing the dramatic meat of the film, though they’re hardly kinetic. Perhaps with this in mind, Fraser and Standring attempt to spike the film’s action quotient by sporadically cutting to Firmin and his fellow soldiers as they perform a series of warehouse practice-run ambushes, though it’s a questionable tactic. Without the human stakes of the live situation, there’s a whiff of padding to these scenes; moreover, they risk undercutting the urgency of the military’s climactic real-life invasion at (in case you hadn’t guessed) the six-day mark.

Nevertheless, this heart-in-mouth finale is executed with tight, focused clarity of movement by Fraser and editors Dan Kircher and John Gilbert: Many a bigger-budget blockbuster would reduce such a climax to a murky muddle of grunts, gunfire and fast cuts. Aaron Morton’s handsome lensing, meanwhile, resists the standard grainy-beige aesthetic of such period pieces, instead bathing much of the action in sleek, counterintuitive shades of aquamarine — correctly gauging the slightly clinical sangfroid of the entire enterprise.

Film Review: '6 Days'

Reviewed online, London, Aug. 17, 2017. Running time: 94 MIN.

Production: (U.K.-New Zealand) A Vertical Entertainment (in U.S.) release of a General Film Comrporation/Fightertown, Ingenious Senior Film Fund presentation in association with XYZ Films, New Zealand Film Commission, Lipsync, Dog With a Bone Prods. Producer: Matthew Metcalfe. Executive producers: Nate Bolotin, Ian Dawson, Peter Hampden, Norman Humphrey, Gavin Poolman, Andrea Scarso, Glenn Standring, Aram Tertzakian. Co-producer: Norman Merry.

Crew: Director: Toa Fraser. Screenplay: Glenn Standring. Camera (color, widescreen): Aaron Morton. Editors: Dan Kircher, John Gilbert. Music: Lachlan Anderson, David Long.

With: Mark Strong, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Bell, Tim Pigott-Smith, Emun Elliott, Martin Shaw, Ronan Vibert, Martin Hancock, Tim Downie, Nicholas Boulton, Aymen Hamdouchi, Toby Leach, Robert Portal.

More Film

  • Beijing Festival Unveils 'Max Max,' 'Bourne'

    Beijing Festival Unveils 'Max Max,' 'Bourne,' Kurosawa Screening Series

    The upcoming Beijing International Film Festival will give space to high profile Hollywood franchise movies with screenings of all films in both the “Mad Max” and “Bourne Identity” series. Classic Hollywood fare will also feature prominently in a line-up that, as usual, features an eclectic grab bag of titles. The local government-backed festival opens April [...]

  • J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church

    SXSW Film Review: 'J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius'

    Like 8mm films of 1960s “happenings” or videos of 1970s performance art, “J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius” chronicles a cultural footnote that perhaps should be filed under the heading You Had to Be There. The satirical-absurdist “religion” founded by some Texans actually caught fire among hipsters in the 1980s, influencing some [...]

  • 'Roll Red Roll' Review: Piercing Documentary

    Film Review: 'Roll Red Roll'

    “Roll Red Roll” is a piercingly relevant and disturbing documentary about an infamous high school rape case that took place in Steubenville, Ohio (pop. 18,600), on Aug. 11, 2012. Steubenville, the sort of Friday-night-lights small town that boasts signs that read “Kick off for Jesus,” is a place that’s good at keeping secrets. When the [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild, Hollywood Agents Negotiate With Deadline Looming

    The Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents have held a sixth negotiating session with a deadline for a new deal 16 days away — and it’s uncertain whether progress is being made. The Association of Talent Agents made counter-proposals at Thursday’s session that contain provisions for more accountability and transparency by agencies for clients [...]

  • Fox Layoffs

    Fox Layoffs Leave Staffers Stunned and Saddened

    Fox employees knew this day was coming. For over a year, the men and women who work at the Century City lot have talked of little else but severance packages and job searches. They knew that when Disney wrapped up its $71.3 billion acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets, thousands [...]

  • Alan Horn Disney

    Disney Clarifies Film Leadership After Harrowing Day of Fox Layoffs

    Following the dismissal of top executives in distribution, marketing and strategy on Thursday, new 20th Century Fox owner Disney has clarified its new top leadership. Five distinct Fox labels and a portion of their leadership have been welcomed into the Disney fold, the company said. This includes Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Family, Fox Searchlight Pictures, [...]

  • Janelle Monae

    Film News Roundup: Janelle Monae to Star in Film From Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz

    In today’s film news roundup, Janelle Monae will star in a Lionsgate movie, Bill Nighy joins “Emma,” and documentaries on surfer Bethany Hamilton and Asbury Park are dated. CASTINGS More Reviews SXSW Film Review: 'J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius' Film Review: 'Roll Red Roll' Janelle Monae will star in an untitled [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content