“6 Days” is an action thriller. It covers the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London. It claims to be “based on real events”. It was directed by Toa Fraser and was a joint United Kingdom / New Zealand production. The film focuses on four tracks. Kate Adie (Abbie Cornish) represents the media coverage. Max Vernon (Mark Strong) is the negotiator. Rusty Firmin (Jamie Bell) leads the SAS team. Fremin served as technical adviser on the film. And we have the table scenes involving the politicians. Pretty standard stuff. It is reminiscent of all the movies about the Entebbe Raid.
The movie begins with news footage of terrorist activities and specifically hones in on the Iranian Hostage Crisis (which was ongoing) and the election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister. On April 30, 1980, six Arab men storm into the Iranian Embassy through the front door. They easily take the embassy personnel and several visitors captive. A BBC reporter named Kate Adie happens to be on the scene outside at the time and begins the news coverage. Meanwhile, an SAS team is conducting a typical hostage rescue practice which does not end well. This is a standard cliché to suggest to the audience the possibility of an unhappy ending to the film. Of course, if you are an informed Brit, you know the outcome already. While the SAS team prepares for a real hostage rescue mission, Max Vernon negotiates with the head hostage taker. Salim is a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Front which is working to end Iranian oppression of its southern province Arabistan. He demands that the British government force the Iranian government to release 91 political prisoners or else they will start killing the hostages. Vernon does not have to work very hard as Salim continues to push back his deadline for executing hostages and even releases two without any concessions from the British government, other than they are working on it. The Thatcher government decides to play hard ball which will come as no surprise to Maggie fans. However, since she was new to the office, it was not guaranteed that she would refuse to negotiate. Actually, Salim would not have known what an Iron Lady he would be dealing with, but he should have been smart enough to realize Iran would not release 91 prisoners just because Great Britain asked it to. He comes off as rather naïve. Adie comes off as a reporter knowing she can ride this to stardom. Firmin and his mates come off as hoping the negotiations will fall through. And Vernon comes off as hoping to avoid bloodshed. He is almost as naïve as Salim. Even if you are not an informed Brit, you know where this is leading. The only question is how gonzo it will be.
The movie plays out like a docudrama. It is sectioned off into the six days. It adheres to the facts by avoiding the bombast of most action films. The generic action movie music reminds us its not a documentary. The acting is restrained. There are no Rambos on the SAS team. There is also no dysfunction or soap opera elements. It is not a SEAL movie or an episode of “SEAL Team” in that respect. Until you get to the raid itself. That’s where you can’t tell it from others in the subgenre. The movie clocks in at about 1 ½ hours so there is little time for character development. No one gets a back-story. Rusty is not in need of redemption for losing men in a previous mission. Vernon did not lose hostages in a previous incident. Salim is the only terrorist that is fleshed out a bit. Their Arabic is not subtitled, so we can’t even tell what they are saying. An interesting decision by director Toa Fraser which works in building a bit of tension as to what will happen. Other than policeman Trevor Lock, none of the hostages is given any coverage. Lock’s arc is a strong indicator that the movie is faithful to the facts. How else to explain the inexplicable decision of the terrorists to not search him for a gun. Or Salim allowing him to talk to Vernon. If these things happened, Salim and his gang were pretty incompetent. As far as the acting, Bell and Strong are solid in a movie that pushes their characters to the front. Surprisingly, the movie portends a major role for Cornish, but her reporter is given little to do. This is a guy movie. But not a movie for combat porn addicts.
“6 Days” is the kind of movie that can’t be fairly judged without researching the actual incident. If it took a lot of artistic license, then you would have to say it did not go far enough because it does not keep you on the edge of your seat. If historically accurate, you can forgive the lack of adrenaline. Well, it turns out the movie is very accurate. In fact, it is being modest with the claim “based on real events.” They should have gone with “this is a true story, seriously.” I could find no major diversions from the actual event. There are little changes like the killing of the terrorist who had blended in with the rescued hostages. He was actually recognized and shoved down the stairs where two other commandoes shot him. Also, for some reason, the movie does not depict the killing of one hostage and the wounding of two when the male hostage room was stormed. All of the head-scratching moments did occur. One of the SAS men did get hung up on his rope and suffered burns. Lock was left with his gun, although the movie does not show that he was frisked without it being found. There is a brief allusion to him avoiding food to keep from having to go to the bathroom where he feared the captor would see the gun. I guess we were supposed to know that. Oh, and Salim was actually Oan Ali Mohammed who was apparently just as naïve as his cinematic Salim.
In these days of avoiding theaters, if you are looking for an historical action movie, you could do worse than “6 Days”. It is the opposite of “Extraction”, but that does not mean it’s not entertaining. Just keep reminding yourself that what you are watching is the real deal, so don’t be upset when Firmin does not suffer a scratch and the bad guys are easily killed. If you insist on accuracy in your history movies, you'll like it. If you could care less about accuracy and just want to wallow in action, skip it.
GRADE = B