Hostage standoff unfolds in 6 Days

Jaime Bell as the SAS leader in the movie 6 Days.

It is taken for granted that virtually all major news events will be seen instantly around the world through 24-hour live coverage.

Natural disasters such as the devastating hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, refugees in the Mediterranean or firefights in Syria are just some examples of harsh realities entering the living rooms in most parts of the globe.

That era is reckoned to have begun with the First Gulf War in 1991 when CNN, through New Zealand born broadcaster Peter Arnett, reported live from Baghdad while it was being pounded by American rockets.

But a decade earlier, in central London, BBC broadcaster Kate Adie staked her claim in history in front of a TV camera outside the Iranian Embassy.

On April 30, a group from a minority in the southern province of Arabistan, stormed their way in, seized control of the building and took 26 people hostage.

These events, and what followed, are re-enacted in 6 Days (Transmission/New Zealand Film Commission), directed by Toa Fraser and written by Glenn Standring, both New Zealanders who also made the Maori-language action show The Dead Lands.

Their latest is a New Zealand co-production with many of the scenes done in an Auckland studio, allowing a number of local faces to fill some of the key roles.

Siege films, whether fictional or based on reality, are a highly satisfactory genre because they have the simplicity of a linear narrative, natural suspense and offer plenty of opportunities for character conflict.

Wikipedia lists nearly 60 such films, including historical events that have been done more than once, from Troy to The Alamo to Stalingrad.

These were all large spectacles, something that couldn’t occur in the confined spaces of an embassy in Princes Gate, South Kensington.

Instead, Fraser concentrates on a handful of locations, including a place where the Special Air Service (SAS) troops trained for their attack in mockups of the embassy’s main floors.

Meanwhile, Adie (played by Australian Abbie Cornish) and the rest of the media are outside in the street waiting for something to happen as British government officials negotiate with the hostage-takers and the Iranians. (Adie’s career subsequently took off as a foreign correspondent, covering Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the Sierra Leone war in 2000 and much else until retiring as the BBC’s most famous reporter.)

The political background is sketched in — Margaret Thatcher was new as Prime Minister and, though like Churchill in Dunkirk she is absent, her presence is felt through the government’s decision not to concede to demands from what turns out to be an inept and ill-prepared group.

Most of the drama centres on three characters, the SAS leader (Jamie Bell), the chief negotiator (Mark Strong) and the hapless leader of the hostage-takers (Ben Turner).

While the outcome is never in doubt, there are plenty of surprises to keep any audience in suspense throughout.

Rating: Restricted to audiences over 13. 95 minutes.

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Nevil Gibson

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