Netflix’s latest original offering, The Red Sea Diving Resort, is inspired by true events. The film, directed by Homeland writer, Israeli born Gideon Raff, is set amidst the then raging Civil War, a time when Jewish Ethiopians were desperate enough to leave their country that they started fleeing to Israel by whatever means they could.
It’s 1979 and we meet agents Ari Levinson (Chris Evans) and Sammy Navon (Alessandro Nivola) working alongside local man Kabede Bimro (Michael Kenneth Williams). They’re helping Ethiopian communities make their way to a refugee camp in Sudan, where they hope they can hide long enough for a more sustainable plan to be put in place.
Who’d have thought that an abandoned Sudanese hotel in a totally lawless zone, known best for its human trafficking, would be the answer to anyone’s problems?
But sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
This hotel, the obviously titular Red Sea Diving Resort becomes exactly that when Ari devises a plan to use it as a front by day while smuggling Jewish Ethiopians aboard Israeli ships by night. He’ll need the help of a handful of international recruits if he’s to successfully evade reprehensible Colonel Abdel Ahmed (the show-stoppingly scary Chris Chalk) and “leave no one behind.”
Evans is on form as gold-hearted, good guy Ari. Though he has the best of intentions,
Ari is blindly driven, seeing only the endgame. His impulsiveness sometimes gets the better of him and frequently aggravates his superiors and his team, particularly Sammy, whose sound advice Ari continually ignores. Like most workaholics, his family life is in tatters. His wife has left him and his daughter barely sees him.
One of the main gripes with The Red Sea Diving Resort is that that’s about where the character development ends. No one but Ari is really given any backstory. Even Kabede, who is arguably as heroic as any amongst them remains a flat character, whose plight is largely unexplored.
The story is an interesting one but the film devotes too much time to the “how” and not enough time to the “why?” brushing past the dire situations of its victims, who audiences are told almost nothing about.
The tone of The Red Sea Diving Resort bobbles about indecisively. It’s character introductions feel like something straight out of a heist film and it tries to incorporate humour in a way that just doesn’t sit right because this is in no way a funny story.
The Red Sea Diving Resort is watchable but disappointing. It had the potential to be a serious, eye-opening film that made audiences stop and think about the all-too-real nightmares that refugees lived then, and now. Instead, it glosses over the problems and the characters that we should feel for the most and goes for cheap laughs and hero glory.
Ironically, it’s a shame that this ship has sailed.
SEE IT if…
Chris Evans floats your boat
You love a good true story
SKIP IT if…
You want to learn about African history
You’re expecting something akin to Argo
It gets 2.5 stars out of 5.
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