DI­REC­TOR Toa Fraser CAST Jamie Bell, Mark Strong, Ab­bie Cor­nish, Martin Shaw, Tim Pig­ott-smith

PLOT South Kens­ing­ton, 30 April 1980. The Ira­nian Em­bassy is un­der siege by armed mil­i­tants. The UK gov­ern­ment launches Operation Nim­rod, led by the SAS’ Rusty Firmin (Bell).

WATCHED LIVE BY mil­lions in the spring of 1980, the Ira­nian Em­bassy siege played out like a real-life thriller — an event so in­her­ently cin­e­matic it’s a sur­prise it’s taken 37 years to boom onto the big screen. The siege could be told from any num­ber of view­points: the SAS, the ter­ror­ists, the ne­go­tia­tors, the hostages, White­hall or the me­dia. So which story do you tell? 6 Days’ an­swer is all of them. Here’s a film so vig­i­lantly re­searched that it’s obliged to cover ev­ery an­gle and, as a con­se­quence, loses sight of what’s so com­pelling — the SAS raid it­self.

After a brisk, omi­nous pro­logue de­pict­ing a coun­try shiv­er­ing in the midst of a “ter­ror­ism re­nais­sance” (6 Days is noth­ing if not timely), Toa Fraser’s film storms into the event with alarm­ing econ­omy. The Demo­cratic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Front sim­ply march up to the Em­bassy, burst through the doors, chain-lock the en­trance and is­sue an ul­ti­ma­tum: re­lease 91 Arabs im­pris­oned in Iran or they start killing the 26 cap­tives. Like all hostage thrillers, 6 Days piv­ots on a pre­car­i­ous but sim­ple dra­matic dilemma — do you re­solve the cri­sis through diplo­macy or force? Wedged be­tween Tim Pig­ott-smith’s tru­cu­lent home sec­re­tary and Ben Turner’s er­ratic ter­ror­ist, Mark Strong’s Met ne­go­tia­tor is a mid­dle­man pin­cered by im­pos­si­ble pres­sures. As the ten­sion ratch­ets up, ev­ery ring of the tele­phone be­gins to sound like a death-knell.

Still, the most com­pelling char­ac­ter here, by some stretch, is Jamie Bell’s lance cor­po­ral, Rusty Firmin — the mas­ter­mind be­hind the in­sanely per­ilous ab­seil as­sault. Tak­ing a less-is-more ap­proach, Bell’s terse, in­scrutable per­for­mance de­serves to go down as the most be­liev­able de­pic­tion of an SAS warrior com­mit­ted to film — a ball of coiled vi­o­lence who isn’t so much heroic as coolly prag­matic. The film jumps to at­ten­tion ev­ery time he ap­pears.

Trou­ble is, there’s not nearly enough of him and too much of Ab­bie Cor­nish’s off-key take of BBC re­porter Kate Adie. Since 6 Days al­ready in­ter­sperses events with archival news re­ports, you won­der what Cor­nish’s dra­matic pur­pose is other than to sup­ply a run­ning com­men­tary in a sing-songy, af­fected ac­cent. No­tice a theme form­ing here? There are too many char­ac­ters crammed into the pres­sure cooker. What should be a stream­lined count­down thriller gets clogged up by mul­ti­ple nar­ra­tives and pace drain­ing fo­cus-switches. Maybe this would’ve been less no­tice­able if 6 Days were uni­fied by the ur­gent hand­held style of Paul Green­grass, which a recre­ation like this seems to be cry­ing out for, but Fraser’s ap­proach never re­ally set­tles, and nor does his colour-pal­ette: there are cobalt blues, stark day­light, seafoam greens, cin­na­mon browns, even, at one point, the Sunny De­light or­ange favoured by Michael Bay. Colour plays such an in­sid­i­ous emo­tional ef­fect on a film’s at­mos­phere, but 6 Days can’t quite de­cide on its own look, or mood.

What’s end­lessly strik­ing is the ve­rac­ity of the stag­ing, and the film does rally in its puls­ing fi­nal third — but even that has its is­sues. As the gas-masked marines strike like a troop of Darth Vaders, the ex­plo­sive fury of the SAS raid thun­ders with a real-time rush... only for Fraser to cut to Cor­nish re­port­ing out­side, or Strong’s baf­flingly su­per­flu­ous wife watch­ing events on the TV. Why sab­o­tage the mo­men­tum? If ever a film’s suf­fered from St Hub­bins Syn­drome, this is it — there’s too much per­spec­tive.

VERDICT A solid ac­count of ex­cep­tional events, hob­bled by choppy pac­ing and a bot­tle­neck of char­ac­ters. Still, the ex­plo­sive crescendo de­liv­ers, and Bell is crack­ing as 6 Days’ tac­i­turn SAS warrior.

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