The trouble with recreating an event in history is that the audience already knows what happens. The challenge becomes either showing the story from a different perspective so people who are familiar with the event have a new understanding, or trying to keep the stakes so high it’s hard to trust what you already know. While many may not know all the details of what that happened in April 1980 at the Iranian Embassy in Princes Gate, London, the new film 6 Days is an illustrious example of both.
In the film, by Toa Fraser, the audience follows different groups involved in multiple aspects of the hostage situation. The film bounces back between the regarded news anchor Kate Adie (Abbie Cornish) who documented the 6 harrowing days, the corporative inspector Max Vernon (Mark Strong) who was working directly with the terrorists, and the courageousSAS team, lead by Rusty Firmin (Jaime Bell), who finally brought the terror to an end.
The film spends much of its time traveling between narratives, explaining all the aspects involved in that fateful day. While each position not only played an important part during those 6 days, the gravity of their participation in the film was not balanced. For the most part, the scenes centered on Kate and Max felt like fillers. Out of the two, Max had the highest level of stakes, and Strong is always brilliant at playing subtle power, but it was not powerful enough to engrain his importance during the six days. It was as if this character was the one who kept reigning the true power in, which was the SAS.
Besides the focus on Rusty, the rest of the SAS team continue to live in the shadows. This might be how they prefer to live, as most elite military forces do, but the lack of their names did not change the fact that they alone moved the film forward. The tension was paced off of the tension these soldiers felt with the back and forth of the termination plans. They were prepared for one course of action, then had to stand down when more diplomatic options came about.
Take this with a grain of salt because my knowledge of SAS centric films is limited, but I felt more connected with this special force group than I have remembered before. Not in the sense that the audience really got to know these men, but we really got to see what they do and why they are considered some of the best. Within the six days of the siege, they went through 3 different methods of extraction. This means that these commanders organized, built a training facility, and continued to drill these soldiers until the operation was done in absolute accuracy.
This is where the tension comes into place within the film. Every time the SAS got ready, in gear and in position, the pulse rising on the situation in an attempt to refocus the anticipation into efficiency, the team has to stand down. What was a long fearful six days for the hostages, became a start and stop situation for their rescuers and their plans kept evolving. The give and take presented helped keep an otherwise slow developing resolution pop with the erratic emotions of the military.
The other dominate theme in the film that facilitated the overall tone was the construction of the senses. From the start of the film, the architecture of the buildings involved were significant.It’s attention to detail when you use the trends of decoration to help signify a point in history. The regimented lines of the boxy rooms mimicked the less chaotic world of generations past. Margaret Thatcher was before my time in the political awareness realm, but from what I understand she was harsh, unwavering, and strong. There is also examples in the muted tones of the colors used, and the distinctive colors used for the three faces of the story. Each major area of operation (news, communication, and force) played their own role in the story, and they are represented through color. They may not have equal portrayal in the film, but they gain significance through color.
There are so many times in films like this that the heart of the film becomes focused on what is good versus what is evil, but sometimes that’s naive. Our world is rarely based in black and white, instead an uneven blanket of grey covers daily life. 6 Days was not burdened with teaching a lesson on the heroes and villains of the situation, but spent time trying to tell a story of what happened on that pivotal week in UK history.
On a personal note, I have a connection to situations that were happening in Iran at that time, and I hope that audiences look into the social unrest at that time to truly understand what exactly was the motivation for these terrorists. Sometimes the obvious villains are anything but.
However, this is a review of the film, and while there are moments that aren’t as strong as they could have been, it was an entertaining movie. I was on the edge of my seat, experiencing my personal tension coincide with the film’s made for an unnerving journey through history. With a strong cast, shining as they always do, it’s worth taking the time to view the film.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Vertical Entertainment