6 Days

Studio: Vertical Entertainment
Directed by Toa Fraser

Aug 18, 2017 Web Exclusive
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On April 30, 1980, six gunmen championing the cause of Arab national sovereignty charged the Iranian embassy in London and took the 26 people inside hostage. Their demands were few—negotiate the release a group of Arab inmates from imprisonment in Iran, and then provide safe transport for the hostage takers out of the U.K. Their ultimatum—do it, or the hostages die. The six days that followed were wrought with tension, as lead negotiation Max Vernon tried to secure the hostages’ release while a British Special Air Services (SAS) team prepared an aggressive breach and rescue mission.

Mark Strong stars as Vernon, a seasoned inspector for whom a violent outcome is the worst one possible. As he tries to determine the hostages’ demands and buy his government time to formulate a peaceful resolution, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s office takes a firm stance against domestic terrorism. Caught between the government’s demands and a SAS team itching to storm the building, Vernon struggles to ensure that all 26 people kept at gunpoint inside the embassy emerge from the crisis alive. Meanwhile, SAS team leader Rusty Firmin (Jamie Bell) and his unit strategize and train for their impending assault time and again, the first of its kind in such a public way on British soil.

The inherent visual challenge of the film is to infuse it with increasing tension throughout (negotiations tend to be dialogue heavy and sporadic until any climactic action occurs, and so keeping them stimulating requires dexterity). Director Toa Fraser tries admirably, but he comes up short of setting any new standards for the genre. As depicted on screen, Vernon’s great successes during the standoff are to routinely buy another 24 or 48-hours of negotiating time from the leader of the hostage takers, much to the chagrin of the other hostiles. Aside from showcasing sporadic arguments between the gunmen, Fraser defaults to the SAS team’s training sessions for the film’s main action sequences. Watching them play-act a breach operation, while Vernon tensely converses with the hostage takers via phone is ultimately underwhelming.

These scenes could have been more impactful, but the film misses an opportunity to invest its energy more fully in character building. Vernon and Firmin become the main sources of any emotional attachment, and neither is overwhelmingly layered. (In life, they’re surely fascinating; here, not quite as much.) We’re exposed to the reluctance of the overwhelmed Arab leader, too, but other than a nervous hostage or two, we get very little sense of the people at the center of the event. Were there details for us to focus on of the individuals whose lives were threatened, we’d perhaps have greater need to see them come out alive. But the hostages remain little more than background actors with beads of sweat on their brows, and not once do we suspect any true peril will befall the two men we follow most closely. While by no means a bad film, the most interesting element of 6 Days is the historical near-week it’s based on.

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Author rating: 6/10

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