They shouldn’t have hired Chris Evans for this movie.
The Netflix original “The Red Sea Diving Resort,” based on the real life events of Operation Brothers, in which a group of Mossad agents smuggled thousands of Ethiopian Jews into Israel, suffers from the focus on the Captain America actor, who plays the fictional Ari Levinson.
We could debate for ages on whether or not it was appropriate to hire a white, non-Jewish actor to play a Jewish character. What cannot be debated is that a lack of focus on Ethiopian Jews, in a movie about a defining event in their history, isn’t the right narrative choice.
There aren’t a lot of stories about Ethiopian Jews in Western media, so even this fictionalized tale of the events is important. But the movie doesn’t bother to really distinguish these refugees from each other, or really make any of them actual characters. Instead, the events of the movie focus on Levinson’s attempts to do the impossible, with his team of wannabe-Avengers, of course.
To an extent, I can understand the focus on the Mossad agents. The plot is so unbelievable: use an abandoned hotel as a front to smuggle out a bunch of refugees, and then be forced to keep up the front of an actual hotel…That’s a pretty interesting premise. It shouldn’t be that difficult to translate the real world events into an entertaining and informational movie.
But director Gideon Raff utterly fails. He doesn’t do anything with it besides stuff the film with every action-movie cliché in the book. Evan’s establishing character moment is when he saves a wandering boy from a hail of gunfire, before handing him off to his mother. He never leaves anyone behind; he actually says that, like it’s supposed to be inspirational.
He’s described as “reckless” for his plan, and nobody believes it will work. And he’s also the only one who can pull it off.
The movie doesn’t attempt to give him anything resembling an actual personality. It does attempt to place some tension and suspense into the plot, but the Sudanese aren’t never made enough of a threat for the viewer to actually worry. Like Evans and his team, the Sudanese army is nothing more than a mish-mash of evil tropes. The general behaves exactly as you would expect: he’s sexist and sex-crazed, and adores violence. It comes off as more comedic than threatening.
And it’s hard to care about the Ethiopian refugees when the movie never really names any individuals. We see them huddling the back of trucks, and getting massacred, but we rarely get to know them.
Even Kabede Bimro, played by Michael K. Williams, who provides the movie’s narration and is supposed to be a collaborator in the event (He even gets second billing) gets so little screentime and characterization that I had to Google his name for this piece.
He clearly has a much more interesting story to tell, and we never get to see the events from his point of view.
The film lazily plods along, hitting each expected beat: Evans brings up his idea, gathers his team and then gets accidentally roped into running an actual resort when actual tourists shows up. The film then gets the first group out with little emotional drama and then proceeds to show all the other groups being sent out montage-style.
More time could have been devoted to them rescuing others, but instead Raff decides to have another montage of the team tending the resort set to Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf.’ It’s pointless. And for most of the film, it feels like the team could be smuggling anything: jewels, gold, abandoned dogs…It doesn’t really seem to matter.
The film has absolutely no identity of its own. If you weren’t paying close attention, you could mistake this movie as complete and utter fiction, your typical summer blockbuster, with the barest hints of a Jewish identity.
At least, if you watch this film you won’t be wasting your money on $15 movie tickets and $45 dollar snacks, but it’s two hours and ten minutes of your life you’ll never get back.
And as much as I despise the focus on Chris Evans, and feel as though the film would have been forced to have been more creative if it didn’t have his star power to back it up, he’s still one of the best parts of the movie.
At least he can act.