6 Days: NZIFF Review
"Aggression's good, but control's the key"
It's a line uttered to an SAS trooper getting ready to storm the Iranian Embassy, but it could equally be applied to New Zealand director Toa Fraser's new thriller, 6 Days, the second offering of his at the New Zealand International Film Festival.
Billed by producer Matthew Metcalfe as our take on a world event, Dead Lands director Toa Fraser delivers an assured and steady re-telling of the events of the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980.
For those unfamiliar with the events, (most likely many outside of England itself, where it was a defining televisual and news moment), six Iranians stormed the Embassy, barricading themselves in and took 26 people hostage.
In the ensuing six days of the siege, police, negotiators and camera crews followed the tension and tried to resolve the situation, set as it was against a backdrop of increasing terrorist threats and governments caving to various demands.
Toa Fraser's calm and steady portrayal of the build up to the inevitable break down of negotiations and subsequent storming of the building proves to be relatively fuss-free.
It begins with the six casually walking in and taking over - there's no discussion of who they are, what their backgrounds are etc, it's simply a case of the execution of a job being done.
Equally, Fraser and script writer Glenn Standring's fuss-free approach to re-telling it all means this really does stick to the facts and quite simply gets on with the job. By powering through the days, taking in differing perspectives from the SAS training and running through scenarios, to the pomposity of Cabinet ministers coolly debating what needs to happen, 6 Days isn't really interested in providing either a glorified take on things or a gung-ho guns blazing approach to it all.
Using a stalwart Mark Strong as the hostage negotiator proves to be Fraser's winning moment, as Max Vernon's fragility and desperation to solve it all are clearly etched on his face. Abbie Cornish delivers a clipped English approach to the veteran BBC correspondent Kate Adie, and Jamie Bell brings a workmanlike pace to Rusty the SAS squad head honcho.
By stripping the film back and cutting off the soundtrack to showcase the sounds of the situation, Fraser brings a tension to bear throughout that's palpable, if not riveting. Characters are given the briefest of once overs, and end up feeling like cut-outs in context (though anything more than the slightest edges would have given this almost documentary-like pace an unnecessary edge).
With a smattering of humour and some nice touches (such as the SAS all geared up and bathed in green light as they ready themselves repeatedly), 6 Days is a solid film which delivers a solid recounting of events.
It may rightfully lack some of the edges of the usual of its fare, but that's a good thing here and if anything, the devil's in the detail, from the period trimmings to the atmosphere of the Sword of Damocles hanging over them all. By choosing not to morally apply judgements to all those involved, Fraser's multi-faceted approach to Standring's sensible script makes 6 Days a solid film that's worthy of showcasing his versatility as a director.