Operation Red Sea is basically every great, good and decent war movie rolled into one amazing spectacle. Then for good measure it has a Raid-like sensibility toward the action. It’s hard to think of a more ambitious and versatile action war movie that does it anywhere close to this level.
What’s most amazing about the film is how quickly it can shift gears. It kicks off with a Navy Seals like rescue mission before turning to a Black Hawk Down city under siege effort. The next scene evolves into a Tears of the Sun type protect the innocents endeavor then nerve wracking shoot outs like American Sniper. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, the action shifts towards a Fury-style tank battle.
It’s even more amazing to consider what Director Dante Lam accomplished on a $70 million budget. This kind of undertaking for a U.S. production would probably been no less than $200 million.
The Chinese Navy’s Jiaolong assault team is sent on a mission to rescue hostages that eventually takes them on a quest to stop terrorists from gaining possession of nuclear materials.
Complaints are few with this one. At times it’s hard to distinguish the characters since there’s no distinctive traits like facial hair or uniform variations. This is where screenwriter Ji Feng could have been more helpful in developing the characters to any extent. There’s a rapid fire introduction sequence, but it’s going to be hard for audiences to keep track of who’s who when the action starts. Tong Li (Jiang Luxia) stands out beyond her interesting designation of female gunner and has some great fight scenes.
Reporter Xia Nan (Hai-Qing) is the one character with a developed subplot as she was on to the terrorists early on and has a personal stake in wanting to stop them. Captain Gao Yun (Zhang Hanyu) seems on the cusp of getting his subplot developed, but Feng doesn’t bring it full circle.
At 142 minutes, the film is almost too much of an overwhelmingly good thing. Some of the special effects, particularly some explosions and gunshot entry and exit points look overly CGI, but considering the massive scope of the film, I’ll cut them some slack.
Lam doesn’t shortchange on any of these sequences. While spectacularly over the top, Lam doesn’t treat the soldiers as superheroes. Few emerge completely unscathed while others suffer some gruesome deaths.
Lam shows the ugliness of warfare without making it too gratuitous. The sight of car bomb and mortar attack victims still twitching carries the desired effect and doesn’t come off like an excuse to show burnt and dismembered bodies.
It was hard to pick the best action scene as there’s so many strong options. The tank battle in a sandstorm was inspired and the escape from the village was excellent in execution and creating suspense.
The final scene is very rah rah China. But it’s not American viewers haven’t been treated to the same with any film that needed an excuse to conclude with a victorious slo-mo shot of Old Glory.
Operation Red Sea should definitely be on the must-see list for fans of action movies big on spectacle.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Well Go USA