Despite some similarities, don’t dismiss The Red Sea Diving Resort as an Argo by the sea. There’s enough here to warrant a watch even if it has a certain sense of deja vu.
Red Sea Diving Resort is loosely based on actual events, but the truth and fiction get so muddied that it’s best not to get too worked up over the facts.
Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame) plays Ari Levinson, an Israeli Mossad agent who’s helping Ethiopian Jewish refugees in Sudan find sanctuary. Evans is a fine actor, but he can pass for an Israeli about as much as Ben Affleck did Tony Mendez in Argo. It’s that problematic thinking that these stories can’t be as engaging without a white lead.
With his latest rescue efforts shut down by the higher-ups including his direct supervisor Ethan Levin (Sir Ben Kingsley, Iron Man 3), Ari has to come up with a new way to help all of the thousands of refugees left behind. He gets the idea to lease a resort and use it as the extraction point to transport refugees gathered by his ally Kabede Bimro (Michael Kenneth Williams, When They See Us).
Ari assembles a team to aid in these rescues including medic Sammy (Alessandro Nivola, Selma), (Haley Bennett, The Magnificent Seven), sniper Max (Alex Hassell) and driver Jake (Michiel Huisman, Game of Thrones).
As always with these types of films where a predominantly white starring cast sets out to help nameless brown faces there’s that unavoidable “white savior” feeling. Kabede is given enough screen time to not feel like a complete afterthought, but Director/Screenwriter Gideon Raff (Homeland) missed the opportunity to shake the narrative further by showing Kabede’s daring rescue efforts from his perspective.
For too much of the film, Raff makes Ari’s rescues play out too smoothly while Kabede’s efforts in corralling and leading these escapes could have offered more drama and tension. At least there’s some suspense whether all of Kabede’s rescue efforts will have a 100% success rate.
- Agents of SHIELD: The Sign, New Life review S6 E12
- Hidden in Plain Sight movie review
- Marvel Legends action figure reviews
- Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw review
There’s some gunfire exchanges and mass executions, but the film largely just hints at major action sequences. Given the setup and the menacing presence of Gotham’s Chris Chalk as the cruel Col. Abdel Ahmed seeking to stop the rescue efforts, Raff teases action that never arrives.
Based on the number of rescue operations, Ahmed doesn’t seem particularly concerned for large stretches of the film. And when he does act, it’s done more in an intimidating, threatening yet ineffective manner that doesn’t lead to any real trouble for Ari’s crew.
One of the highlights of the film is the bizarre reality of Ari and his team having to run the resort like an actual resort when tourists arrive looking for a getaway. It’s during these sequences that the cast really gets to shine, but it’s not nearly enough for the run time.
At over two hours, Raff doesn’t always make the best use of his screen time getting bogged down into politics and inconsequential subplots like Sammy’s issues with Ari’s leadership. Greg Kinnear has a seemingly random supporting role as CIA agent Walton Bowen, who becomes important in the final act. It would have been nice for Raff to spend more time on Ari’s team and learning their motivations for signing up and continuing with the mission.
The end credit notes aren’t going to prove very satisfying for audience members who anticipate the actors with the real life players as many characters were combinations of people for efficiency. Still, this effort is an interesting historical footnote and worth exploring. It’s just unfortunate that Raff didn’t go as deep as he could have with the subject matter and the people involved in this years long operation.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix