2.5 out of 5 stars
Gideon Raff’s “The Red Sea Diving Resort” is a film based on the true story of the secretive Israeli Mossad’s Operation Brothers, a top-secret mission to extract Jewish Ethiopian refugees fleeing Sudan and Ethiopia to a safe haven in Israel. Ari Levinson, an Israeli Mossad agent played by Chris Evans, is assisted by Kabede Bimro, an Ethiopian Jewish activist, to extract refugees from overcrowded and violent refugee camps in Ethiopia. After a multitude of extractions go awry when resources and guidance are found to be lacking, Ari devises a plan to purchase and operate the Red Sea Diving Resort, an abandoned tourist destination in Sudan on the Red Sea to serve as a cover for Ethiopian refugees before making the final move to Israeli naval forces just offshore.
The movie follows Ari as he implements his plan to extract the refugees with the help of colleagues Rachel Reiter (Haley Bennett), Jake Wolf (Michiel Huisman), Max Rose (Alex Hassell) and Sammy Navon (Alessandro Nivola). The team works together, with help along the way from CIA officer Walton Bowen, played by Greg Kinnear, as they face a dangerous liberation plot.
Though the plot itself is a solid one, Raff seemingly loses track of what exactly it is that he’s trying to get across. Throughout the movie, the theme changes a handful of times. It is one of few movies to have edge-of-your-seat tension, home redecorating montages and heartbreaking leaving-home scenes all within the same 45 minutes. It almost gives the viewer the feeling of listening to a drunk uncle tell a story at a family reunion; the basic premise is there, but the emotion of the story changes unpredictably.
With big-name actors like Chris Evans and Michiel Huisman, most of the acting is not bad, but that’s really all that can be said about it. Some of the actors seem to settle into a rut during the beginning of the movie, with their characters being laid out almost dossier-style in the first five minutes and not going anywhere from there. Even Evans, who, in my mind could do a lot better than this performance, plateaus after his debut in the dry and deserted crop fields of Sudan. There are a few attempts to humanize him with his connection to his family, but these scenes are so rare I found myself skipping back through the movie trying to find out who the people that just appeared on my screen were and why Chris was kissing that woman.
Overall, though the story itself was good and its themes poignant, the film lacked depth, character and uniformity. At one point, I looked away from a midnight refugee extraction, complete with Israeli commandos and rigid-hull inflatable boats, and looked back to a shirtless Chris Evans (no complaints there) sitting in a beach chair, sipping from a coconut shell. Next thing you know, the Sudanese army is there. Sadly, the majority of the shortcomings seem to have come from a directorial perspective. Though “The Red Sea Diving Resort” may not hold a special place in my heart (sorry Chris), it certainly could have with the right person at the helm.