The problem with an actor playing an iconic role early on in their career means that they are forever carrying that character around on their shoulders. Look at Daniel Radcliffe who, despite seeming to take every random opportunity that comes his way, is finding it difficult to come out of the shadow of the Boy Who Lived. As much as I want to watch every new film he stars in as a new Daniel Radcliffe film I can’t help but see Harry Potter everywhere. Similarly, I have often had problems separating Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot. As such, every role that I’ve watched Bell play has just seemed more childish than it should have done. He’s tried to do plenty of serious stuff over the years but all I see is that young ballet dancer pretending to be a grown-up. Which is a massive shame because I really like Jamie Bell. He just hasn’t ever quite found that one role that changed the way people, or at least I, perceive him. For the last few years he’s done a variety of different thigns that have had varying degrees of success. He was perfect as the title character in The Adventures of Tintin but was recently in the reboot of Fantastic Four that never really worked. I admit that I was
unconvinced after seeing that he was going to star in a film as a member of the SAS. Would I ever be able to see anything other than Billy Elliot with a gun?
Going into 6 Days I didn’t really know a great deal about the Iranian Embassy siege that took place in London in May 1980 but, considering the number of recent terrorist attacks around the world in the last 12 months or so, it seems like a rather prescient story to make a film about. 37 years on, the world is facing even greater atrocities than the ones carried out at Princes Gate just 1 year into Margaret Thatcher’s government. On 30th April that year a group of Iranian Arab men stormed the embassy in Kensington and held 26 people hostage. Threatening the lives of those they hel, the group demanded the release of a group prisoners in Khuzestan and their safe passage out of the UK. The Prime Minister and her Tory government refused to agree to these demands so a siege ensued for the next 6 days. Whilst the SAS were on standby to storm the building, negotiators successfully saw the release of a handful of hostages by agreeing to a few of their more minor demands. It wasn’t until one of the hostages was killed that the special forces regiment carried out an assault and brought the siege to and end.
The siege was broadcast live for its 6 days and rocked the British people. It was eventually overshadowed after the Iran–Iraq War broke out a few months later but it did, however, bring the SAS into the public eye and showed the world how Thatcher would approach acts of terrorism. It was a pretty defining moment in British history but, if I’m honest, it doesn’t exactly seem like the one event that demanded being turned into a film. Especially one that is trying to sell itself as some kind of British Argo starring the kid from Billy Elliot and Inspector George Gently. But somebody disagreed with me and went and bloody did it. The structure is pretty straightforward: we start from the beginning of the siege and move between the action inside the embassy, a group of journalists looking on in horror, the police negotiators trying to reach a peaceful solution, and the SAS lying in wait next door. There are moments when director, Toa Fraser, tries to build the tension by showing the soldiers waiting outside doors with guns at the ready until another deadline is reached. However, there just isn’t that much drama here.
This is a very short film that, if I’m honest, feels more like a reconstruction that you’d be made to watch in GCSE history or something. It feels less like entertainment and more like the basic facts. There is so little time for develeopment that you don’t really know anybody or really understand what drives them. The closest you get is Mark Strong as Chief Inspector Max Vernon who speaks to one of the terrorists on the phone and attempts to keep the hostages alive. He has some emotional resonance as his connection with the man he’s talking leaves him hoping for a peaceful end. And I guess Jamie Bell does something in role as Lance Corporal Rusty Firmin, the man who ends up leading the assault on the embassy. Again, you don’t really get to know much about Rusty but Bell does a good job at portraying the brooding military man who believes he and his team are the only solution to this problem. He is a perfect mix between cocky young thing and highly focused killer. It’s a breakthrough role for him.
Still, 6 Days doesn’t really have a great deal going for it. It’s not bad, per se, but it doesn’t seem fully formed. It’s like there wasn’t enough in the real-life event to give any detail to the film. A lot of the performances end up being flat or forgettable; non more so than Abbie Cornish, as BBC journalist, Kate Adie, who is decidedly stiff in her portrayal. The details of this film are great and Fraser really does create a historically convincing reenactment. It’s something of period piece thanks to its interiors and set dressing but, beyond that, it just doesn’t feel like we needed to be retold this story. I get that there is a certain amount of tension between each possible assault and the instant return to silently waiting but this film really isn’t the thriller is tries to be. If we’d seen more of the SAS in their training and got to know more of the characters it would have felt more complete?