I’m a sucker for well-crafted historical dramas or military thrillers, with titles like ‘Black Hawk Down’ (2001), ‘Munich’ (2005), or ‘Lone Survivor’ (2013), leaping instantly to mind. I remember seeing an intriguing trailer or two for this one last year, but unfortunately it’s stay on The Big Screen was short and slight, and I missed it. Thankfully, Netflix surprised me again, and this one turned up in the Recent Additions section, where it instantly caught my eye. Here we are on yet another dreary, cold, grey and wet Vancouver Saturday afternoon…and I had nothing going on. So I fired up ‘6 Days’.
In April 1980, a group of terrorists stormed the Iranian embassy in London, taking a number of Iranians and 3 Britons captive, demanding the release of prisoners back in Iran otherwise they’ll begin murdering hostages. While the authorities labored to prevent any loss of life through negotiation, a squad of British Army Special Air Service troops plan a daring assault on the building, in the event that the terrorists carry out their lethal threat. The entire ordeal plays out over 6 days.
I was really impressed by this movie…even though many other critics out there weren’t…for some reason. Again, historical military stories are kinda my thing, so this one already had that working in its favor, but luckily it was put together with a deft hand and the end result is a tightly-told, tensely-paced drama that seems to adhere quite closely to the actual series of events, from what I can tell. As usual, as I hit Play on this flick, my trusty pen and notepad went to work. Below are my scribbles:
-Intro reminds me of ‘The Kingdom’. Cool. Peter Berg’s 2007 ‘FBI fights terrorists in Saudi Arabia’ action flick surprised me when I first saw it, in how well it was put together. But, for me, the opening credits sequence, which brilliantly stitches together the questionable influence of Arab oil on the Western world through graphics, footage and narration, is simply a thing of informative beauty. The opening credits for ‘6 Days’ has a similar vibe…and it worked for me.
-Could exist in the same ‘universe’ as ‘Munich’. I already mentioned that terrific Spielberg-helm’d tale of Israeli vengeance on the Arab terrorists who slaughtered the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Germany, but given the time periods, historical relevance and the similar ‘look’ of the two movies, it’s easy to imagine them co-existing in one of those shared cinematic universes that seem to be all the rage these days.
-Starts with a bang. Not a literal bang, but more it just gets right to the point. After the cool intro sequence, the flick puts us right into the storming of the Iranian embassy…and off the story goes!
-Good period detail. This event took place in 1980…and this movie feels like 1980. Some solid work by the wardrobe, props and production design departments is clearly on display here.
-Slick film score. Simple but effective. There was nothing overwhelming about the music. It was more about lurking just below the surface, slowly building tension through it’s ‘dark’ synth tones. I liked it.
-Mark Strong! Always good. For some reason, Mark Strong (‘Kick-Ass’) is one of those tough-but-smart English actors who I quickly learned to appreciate when he first popped on the scene. In this he plays Police Negotiator ‘Max Vernon’, and does successfully invest the character with a certain ‘humanity’. He’s backed up by the always-impressive Jamie Bell (‘King Kong’) and the gorgeous Abbie Cornish (‘Sucker Punch’). As ‘names’ go, those are pretty good ones to have in your cast. The supporting cast of British actors around them are solid as well.
-Nice pornstache, Bell! It’s right there. Jamie Bell’s ‘Rusty’ character rocks a messy lil 70’s-looking soup strainer. Just terrible.
-Tense. Good build. Suspenseful. I appreciated the even pace of the story. I appreciated even more the methods used to build tension as the story trotted toward the inevitable assault. I found myself tensed up a couple of times. It’s always a good sign when I physically react to what I’m watching…without noticing (at first) that I’m doing it.
-Ha! They even mention Munich! During one of the training montages, during which the SAS contemplate an assault on a bus, they mention that tactics like that hadn’t worked when employed during the hostage crisis 6 years earlier.
-I like the frustration shown on both sides. No fool proof plans. This is definitely not a ‘Die Hard’ flick, in which the Bad Guys or Good Guys are able to concoct and execute brilliant strategies, that nothing interrupts and are all filled with improbable twists and turns, largely of a coincidental nature. This one is messy-around-the-edges frequently, which felt far truer to Real Life…which is probably good since this is ‘Based on an Actual Event’.
-Good portrayal of terrorists. Not cookie-cutter. Internal strife. Given that, by and large, this is a somewhat clinical look at the event, and the SAS’s part in it, I appreciated that they tried to add a level of humanity to the ‘bad guys’ as well. The two terrorist leaders are shown to have different methods and temperaments which, through the stress of the scenario, at times threaten to undermine what they’re trying to do. I found it plausible and it therefore lent an air of credibility to the proceedings.
-Location looks right. Right after the credits rolled, I fired up Youtube to find footage from the actual siege and lo and behold…it’s portrayed in the film with surprising accuracy, to the point where I wonder if they may have just filmed at the real location. I probably could’ve looked that info up too…but I didn’t.
-Good recreation of assault. Well-edited with actual footage. This one begs for another reference to ‘Munich’. The opening of ‘Munich’ is superbly done, cutting the on-set drama that Spielberg shot seamlessly with original news footage of the ordeal as it played out in 1972. ‘6 Days’ adopts the same approach, and uses it well. Granted, knowing that the footage of the limp corpse of a murdered hostage being pulled from the embassy is real, a teeny piece of me kinda thinks it’s a touch exploitative, but the movie treats the events with a respectable ‘gravity’…so I got over it.
-I like how the SAS aren’t gentle, even with the hostages. Job to do. I appreciated that they didn’t have them treat any part of Operation Nimrod with kid gloves, up to and including how they treated the hostages when they finally got to them. Pushing, shoving and yelling were the order of the day to get the victims safely out of harm’s way, right down to zip-tying every one before they started to identify who was who. They didn’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings as they raced to complete the mission.
-Solid, well-crafted dramatization of an actual event. That kinda sums it up, really.
All in all, I got exactly what I hoped I would get from this release. I was hoping for a taut, military-history drama that didn’t take too many liberties with the facts and, as far as I can tell, that’s what I got. The cast is good, the production design is solid, the pacing is well-handled, and the period detail was admirable. It was tense and suspenseful when it needed to be tense and suspenseful, and the 94 minute run-time didn’t over stay it’s welcome, all backed by a subtle but effective music score that helped ramp up the tension. I could see some people griping about some of the flatter characterizations, but I think the accurate portrayal of the event itself and the focus on the behind-the-scenes efforts to bring the situation to a safe and strategic end was the main goal of the filmmakers. I think they succeeded. If you’re a fan of well-crafted historical dramas or tense military thrillers, this is definitely a movie for you. Check it out!