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  • Robin Horsfall

New SAS film 'Appalling'.

Robin Horsfall was one of the SAS assault team who raided the Iranian Embassy on 1980.

6 Days (review)

The promotional poster reads ‘This film is inspired by true events.’ This should be a warning to anyone hoping for a historical re-enactment of the events of May 5th 1980.

The film begins well setting the scene in 1980s London during the Premiership of Margaret Thatcher. The opening sequence uses television footage from the era and mentions the failed US hostage rescue that took place in Teheran the previous week. Filming takes place at Princes Gate or an identical street in London. The use of such an accurate setting was a real victory for the production team. Detective Inspector Max Vernon (Mark Strong) is introduced early as the chief negotiator and central character, an intelligent, thoughtful family man who cares deeply about human life.

In contrast the only other real protagonist is Lance Corporal Rusty Firmin (Jamie Bell) a rough and ready Englishman who is the leader of a Special Air Service assault group. All the other SAS characters are empty space fillers who all appear to be Scottish. What dialogue there is between them is couched in short clichés that convey their limited intelligence and thuggish brutality.

When the assault is cancelled we see one soldier punch himself in the face in frustration.Eight men secretly move to London in the back of a van and then stroll into the building next door in broad daylight and full view of the press claiming to be ‘cleaners’. Abbie Cornish plays BBC reporter Kate Adie. Adie a famously gung-ho, hard-core journalist in real life may not be impressed by the portrayal of her as a soft and caring version of Bridget Jones. Xavier Horan and Emun Elliott are just short of invisible in the face of the Rusty character. Elliott does give some feeling to his performance perhaps because his Scottish heritage came to the fore? I can only assume that any technical advice given was ignored by the director.

We are introduced to the SAS carrying out a room assault in a hardboard fabrication inside an aircraft-hanger. If such a place had existed in 1980 a lot of live ammunition would have been flying around the building killing innocent bystanders. Apart from the weapons and clothing none of the training scenes were even close to reality and none of the acted events took place in 1980 perhaps with the exception of Vernon’s final conversation with Salim (Ben Turner).

The naming of ‘Lance Corporal Rusty Firmin’ in writing on screen comes across as an appeal for credibility. Rusty the only fully named assault team soldier is given responsibility far and above anything that a lance corporal could ever have had. The discussions between him and his comrades leave us in no doubt that he and he alone is the man who is going to make this mission work. Hector Gullan (Colin Moy) the Major in charge is almost subservient to Rusty and his sergeant. We only see eight men in the assault team, eight supermen perhaps who take sole responsibility for clearing five floors and fifty-four rooms on their own?

I’m sure that much of this was down to editorial cuts but without the historical flashbacks there is little of interest; there are no personalities, no sub plots and no personal dramas. The attempt to develop a conflict between the army and the police as unaware of one another’s actions is yet another weak attempt to introduce tensions that fail to follow through. Colonel Mike Rose (Robert Portal) at the Cobra briefing room is again a non-character until he demands a signed document for the authority to mount an assault. In 1980 the document to hand over authority from the police to the military was in fact a legal requirement not a personal demand.

When deadlines to kill hostages approach there is a fair attempt to use the clocks and the score to create increased tension but they hold on for far too long. The cast is strong but they can only work with the material they are given and the material is thin. PC Lock (Kip Chapman) has an accent like a Dickens barrow boy and the press teams seem to have arrived straight from Eastenders. Aymen Hamdouch as Faisal is very convincing and makes the most of a limited opportunity to develop and explore who the terrorists are and the pressures they are under. Sub-titles would help when they argue in Arabic. A ‘Doomsday device’ is mentioned but whatever it is I guess we will never know. Vernon calls his wife at the end and she asks if he is alright, perhaps Rusty’s wife would have a better reason for concern?Sadly the film fails on almost every level. This story has all the potential to be exciting, deep and interesting. However, it lacks depth, the characters are weak and the action scenes drag out endlessly during the assault. The final cliché of a soldier taking a gas mask off alone in a gas filled burning building was ridiculous enough for a cartoon comedy. Placing the word ‘history’ in the Genre section for the film is nothing short of misleading. In 1980 forty men assaulted the Iranian Embassy the real action was over in the first three minutes minutes the rest was tidying up. Nicolas Bolton, Tim Piggot-Smith and Martin Shaw will have to put this one down to experience.The failure of the film to recognise all the members of B Squadron 22 SAS and the police in the closing credits is a profound disappointment.

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