“Aggression’s good, but control’s the key.”

It’s a line uttered to an SAS trooper getting ready to storm the Iranian Embassy, but it could equally be applied to New Zealand director Toa Fraser’s new thriller, 6 Days.

Billed by producer Matthew Metcalfe as our take on a world event, Fraser delivers an assured and steady re-telling of the events of the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980.

For those unfamiliar with the events, (most likely many outside of England, where it was a defining televisual and news moment), six Iranians stormed the embassy, barricaded themselves in, and took 26 people hostage.

In the ensuing six days of the siege police, negotiators, and camera crews followed the tension and tried to resolve the situation, set as it was against a backdrop of increasing terrorist threats and governments caving to various demands.

Fraser’s calm and steady portrayal of the buildup to the breakdown of negotiations and subsequent storming of the building proves to be fairly fuss-free.

It begins with the six offenders casually walking in and taking over. There’s no discussion of who they are or where they’re from. It’s simply a case of the execution of a job being done.

Equally, the work done by Fraser and his scriptwriter Glenn Standring means 6 Days really does stick to its facts and, quite simply, gets on with the job.

Guns out, but not blazing. Photo: Transmission Films

By powering through the days, taking in differing perspectives as the SAS run through their scenarios while pompous Cabinet ministers coolly debate what needs to happen, 6 Days isn’t really interested in providing a glorified take on events, nor a gung-ho guns blazing approach.

Using a stalwart Mark Strong as the hostage negotiator proves to be Fraser’s winning moment, as Max Vernon’s fragility and desperation to solve it all are clearly etched on his face. Abbie Cornish delivers a clipped English approach to the veteran BBC correspondent Kate Adie, and Jamie Bell brings a workmanlike pace to Rusty the SAS squad head honcho.

By stripping the film back and cutting off the soundtrack to showcase the sounds of the situation, Fraser brings a tension to bear throughout that’s palpable, if not riveting. Characters are given the briefest of once-overs, and end up feeling like cut-outs in context – though anything more than the slightest edges would have given the almost documentary-like pace an unnecessary edge.

With a smattering of humour and some nice touches (such as the SAS all geared up and bathed in green light as they ready themselves), 6 Days delivers a solid recounting of events.

It may lack some of the edges of the usual of its fare, but that’s a good thing here and if anything, the devil’s in the detail, from the period trimmings to the atmosphere of the Sword of Damocles hanging over them all. By choosing not to morally apply judgements to all those involved, Fraser’s multi-faceted approach to Standring’s sensible script makes 6 Days a solid film that’s worthy of showcasing his versatility as a director. 

6 Days
Cast: Jamie Bell, Abbie Cornish, Mark Strong
Director: Toa Fraser
Classification: RP13
Running time: 95 minutes

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