Re­views of 6 Days, The Changeover, In­grid Goes West, and Lady Mac­beth.

Toa Fraser con­firms his ver­sa­til­ity with a grip­ping thriller based on the 1980 Ira­nian Em­bassy siege in Lon­don.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Contents - RE­VIEWS — DAVID LARSEN

6 Days Di­rected By Toa Fraser Opens September 7

Fol­low­ing Toa Fraser’s di­rec­to­rial ca­reer is like fol­low­ing a quick-change dis­guise artist through a dense crowd. He’s here, he’s there, he’s... wait, surely he wasn’t in full-face moko be­fore? Damn it, now he’s in a tutu. Lost him again... is that him in the mid­dle of that SAS squad?

Fraser has made six fea­ture films, and the pat­tern of his emerg­ing ca­reer is that there’s a ca­reer, but there isn’t a pat­tern. No 2: Paci­fica fam­ily drama set in Mt Roskill, from Fraser’s own stage play. Dean Span­ley: Ed­war­dian English rein­car­na­tion com­edy/fan­tasy, from Lord Dun­sany’s novella. Giselle: filmed Royal New Zealand bal­let pro­duc­tion. The Dead Lands: Mao­ri­lan­guage re­venge drama set in pre-Pakeha Aotearoa.

This all-over-the-map fil­mog­ra­phy amounts to a rig­or­ous test of Fraser’s ver­sa­til­ity, and he has yet to make a bad movie. If you’d asked me a week ago whether he has a weak­ness, I would have said just one: on the ev­i­dence of The Dead Lands, in most re­spects a re­mark­able film, his abil­ity to con­struct a fast-mov­ing ac­tion se­quence was ques­tion­able. But now I’ve seen 6 Days, a tense, tight pro­ce­dural which would fall down dead in its fi­nal act if its di­rec­tor could not han­dle fast-mov­ing ac­tion. Fraser and his editors (John Gil­bert and Dan Kircher) knock it out of the park.

Lon­don, 1980. The Thatcher prime min­is­ter­ship is less than a year old. Ter­ror­ists seize con­trol of the Ira­nian Em­bassy and an­nounce they will be­gin ex­e­cut­ing hostages at noon the next day un­less the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment per­suades Iran to re­lease Arab pris­on­ers. A stand-off en­sues, with po­lice ne­go­tia­tors, SAS troop­ers, me­dia, and po­lit­i­cal overseers all jostling against one an­other un­der ex­tra­or­di­nary pres­sure.

Glenn Stan­dring’s screen­play main­tains scrupu­lous neu­tral­ity on the un­der­ly­ing po­lit­i­cal and moral ques­tions, al­low­ing all the char­ac­ters their own points of view. The cast is numer­ous enough that none of them gets a great deal of screen time, but Fraser is very well served by his ac­tors: in par­tic­u­lar, he gets first-rate per­for­mances from Jamie Bell, as the young SAS squad­die cho­sen to lead any even­tual storm­ing of the

This is a small, tightly fo­cused story with a great deal of geopo­lit­i­cal res­o­nance, and it recre­ates 1980s Lon­don so well it’s hard to be­lieve most of it was shot in NZ.

em­bassy, and Mark Strong, as the po­lice ne­go­tia­tor try­ing to head off a vi­o­lent out­come. Both char­ac­ters serve as ev­i­dence that a role can be thinly drawn on pa­per and come vividly to life on screen.

As with any siege story, the film is more about es­ca­lat­ing ten­sion and the po­ten­tial for things to go wrong than about ac­tion, but the mo­ments of ac­tion that do oc­cur are the story’s linch­pins.

Fraser makes su­perb use of Lach­lan An­der­son and David Long’s score — the film is a mas­ter­class in how to ratchet up sus­pense though well-de­ployed mu­sic — and the scenes in which the SAS re­hearse var­i­ous pos­si­ble siege-break­ing sce­nar­ios at once break up the still­ness of the siege it­self, and feed into the gath­er­ing sense of im­mi­nent show­down.

Fraser main­tains an ex­em­plary bal­ance be­tween telling us enough for clar­ity and leav­ing enough un­clear for vis­ceral you-are-there punch.

This is a small, tightly fo­cused story with a great deal of geopo­lit­i­cal res­o­nance, and it recre­ates 1980s Lon­don so well it’s hard to be­lieve most of it was shot in New Zealand.

ABOVE— Jamie Bell gives a firstrate per­for­mance as the leader of the SAS squad.

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