Director: Toa Fraser
Cast: Jamie Bell, Mark Strong, Abbie Cornish
Watch 6 Days online in the UK: Netflix UK
It’s a sad sign of the times that the words “Embassy siege” could easily come from any news headline, but in 1980, it happened in London, as six men stormed the Iranian Embassy and held 27 people hostage for nearly a week. 6 Days, Netflix’s latest original film, retells those events with an impressive efficiency.
Glenn Standring, who previously worked with director Toa Fraser on the visceral The Dead Lands, pens the script with a lean, slick confidence, deftly dividing the siege into three strands: the hostage negotiations trying to resolve the matter peacefully, the SAS unit readying to take the building by force, and the journalists standing in the street outside.
It’s a structure that relies on the cast to keep things moving, and Mark Strong delivers a superbly quiet performance as negotiator Max Vernon, his calm, booming baritone of a voice just right for trying to soothe someone over the telephone. His expression and intonation subtly evolves as the exchange continues, as he grows in certainty, but also in empathy; as he has to start lying to keep things calm, you really do sense his inner conflict.
Jamie Bell is just as fantastic as the brilliantly named Rusty Firmin, bringing a macho swagger to the role of the intense squad leader, but also a keen precision – we feel his pent-up frustration every time the team are told to stand down at the last minute, as Vernon makes headway with his talks. Bell, who broke through all those years ago as Billy Elliot, has matured into an accomplished actor, but has often lacked the roles to do his talent justice: alongside Snowpiercer, the TV series TURN and the upcoming Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, 6 Days is a welcome chance for him to show off his skills. For that reason alone, it’s worth watching.
It’s a shame, then, that the effective contrast between the two leads is somewhat undermined by BBC reporter Kate Adie. Played by Abbie Cornish with a plummy yet stiff upper-lip, it’s perhaps less her fault for imitating Adie’s studied journalistic manner and more the role itself, which fulfils a necessary need for exposition and context that makes sense on paper but doesn’t always work in practice.
Fraser’s direction, though, mostly covers up any cracks in these less exciting moments with a brisk pace, repeatedly inflating and deflating the tension with a nicely timed ticking clock soundtrack. With period details keenly observed without distracting from the action at hand, the result is a compelling, if not entirely gripping, thriller that builds patiently to a genuinely edge-of-your-seat climax. 6 Days? It’s certainly worth 90 minutes.
6 Days is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.