Based entirely on real events, armed gunmen stormed the Iranian Embassy in Central London, demanding that several prisoners are released back in Iran, and if this is not met and the UK government fail to oblige, lives will be lost. With BBC reporter Kate Adie (Abbie Cornish) following the events from outside, Max Vernon (Mark Strong) has a rather more important job, as the chief negotiator tasked with talking down the terrorists, and coming to a peaceful agreement. But while he strives to save lives, the SAS have been deployed, waiting, quite literally in the wings, led by Rusty Firmin (Jamie Bell), simply awaiting the go-ahead to raid the building, taking a far more hands-on approach, that could prove costly. But as time ticks by, it may just be the best course of action.
Given the ongoing war against terror, it’s intriguing to go back to a situation that had real implications on modern day counter-terrorism in the UK. It’s also interesting to peer into a time when technology wasn’t nearly so prevalent, unlike now where bombs can be detonated from afar, and computers and mobile phones can be manipulated into weapons, instead the events that occurred during this fateful week in London, is more about human interaction and flaws, and the phone-calls between Max and the English speaking leader of the perpetrators are fascinating, steeped in nuance as the former vies to get behind the facade and convince these criminals to stand down. Through this the terrorists are humanised somewhat, which is essential is understanding why they’ve undertaken this violent endeavour; something we’re still struggling to comprehend today.
Though a real story, it’s one that has been executed in an overtly cinematic way, revelling in the tropes of the genre, and following a formula we’ve seen before, with the pulsating score adding to the suspense – tonally comparable to Argo, in that regard. It’s therefore a shame we keep interrupting the more compelling sequences to head outdoors, with Cornish’s scenes as the unwavering BBC reporter needlessly implemented, and somewhat distracting given the actresses’ over-the-top vocal display. Thankfully, however, Bell and Strong impress, the latter in particular proving to be perfect casting, as his demeanour demands respect and authority, and his voice is so assuring – exactly what a good negotiator requires. He impresses so greatly that if a similar situation unravelled today, you could do a lot worse than asking the actor to lend a hand.
Hostage scenarios make for such captivating cinema, as a successful stomping ground – and this is no different in that regard. The title too adds to the intensity, working as something of a clock, ticking down – for when the opening title card says ‘Day 1’ – we know there’s still five days left until we have any sense of closure. Only problem is, for those less acquainted with this narrative, it almost works as something of a spoiler.