Netflix's The Red Sea Diving Resort Review
"You promised to take us to Jerusalem. But you have taken us to hell."
Chris Evans goes from Endgame to Netflix in a heartbeat, although it's hardly a positive sign that this historical thriller has been bought up by the streaming giant.The real life Operation Brothers was a mission to rescue Jewish-Ethiopian refugees en masse from wartorn Africa and get them to Israel. Undertaken by dedicated Israeli Mossad Agents, the plan was to use subterfuge - Argo-style - and establish a base at a disused diving resort in the Sudan, where refugees could escape to, and where they would then be transported to a nearby ship which would ferry them to Israel.
On paper, it's a genius operation which undoubtedly saved hundreds - thousands - of lives, one of a number of clever ideas which helped alleviate the suffering in a part of the world that most nations simply couldn't get to (or didn't try).
The Red Sea Diving Resort is lighter than it ought to be, neither brimming with tension, nor gripping you with exciting moments, nor affording depth either
Translating this to a worthy story is harder, however, with Israeli director Gideon Raff (who created Prisoners of War, which was remade as the excellent Homeland) struggling to get an angle on the historical drama, as he blows his star budget on getting Chris Evans, and appears to assume that Captain America and an earnest story are enough to get by. And he's probably halfway right, but The Red Sea Diving Resort is still a lot lighter than it really ought to be, neither brimming with the tension of impending doom, nor gripping you with exciting 'heist' moments, nor affording a more in-depth character-study either.
The star power is there; with Captain America's Evans still sporting his Thor beard, proving himself a dedicated and resourceful player in the opening scene, which shows him unwilling to leave a single person behind, and recruiting an eclectic team that includes The Girl on the Train's Haley Bennett; Game of Thrones' Michiel Huisman; and Face/Off's Alessandro Nivola; whilst an all-too-eager-to-overact Ben Kingsley hangs back at the Mossad Office ready to bark cliches at everybody. Greg Kinnear's fellow Intelligence agent skirts the peripherals, wondering what the Mossad boys are up to, whilst The Wire's Michael K. Williams gets under-utilised as the man on the ground tasked with getting the refugees a thousand kilometres to the Sudan in the first place.
It's not a bad cast, even if Evans holds the limelight, trying his best to distinguish himself from the last decade of career-defining Marvel work (he did some good films before - like Sunshine - but it'll take a while to shake the shield) through dragging on cigarettes whilst expounding tales of broken marriages replete with all the swearing that Netflix will allow (i.e. all the swearing in the world, c.f. the latest season of Designated Survivor where they made a running gag of it). It is simply not enough though, with a story that feels far too light for the subject matter, and a style which starts a little more gritty before diverging into almost Ocean's-like split-screen caper territory. Sure, the Mission: Impossible-esque 'heist' element is ingenious, but the near-comic tone it's afforded doesn't balance well with the genocide going on in the background.
Perfectly watchable but, unfortunately - given the subject matter - ultimately also perfectly forgettable now-standard Netflix fare.
The film looks the business, happy to enjoy a location shoot in South Africa and Namibia which frequently feels authentic to the story, as well as some brief spurts of much-needed tension as the corrupt local authorities start to get suspicious of this magical 'Resort' which has suddenly sprung back to life. Nowhere near as harrowing as the likes of Hotel Rwanda or Schindler's List, nor as tense and sharp as Ben Affleck's Argo, The Red Sea Diving Resort is perfectly watchable but, unfortunately - given the subject matter - ultimately also perfectly forgettable now-standard Netflix fare.
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