Director: Gideon Raff
Writer: Gideon Raff
Starring: Chris Evans, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alessandro Nivola
During the early 80s a group of Mossad agents led by Ari Levinson (Evans) stage a daring attempt to use a deserted costal hotel in Sudan as a front to smuggle thousands of persecuted Ethiopian Jews to Israel. However, their mission gets increasingly dangerous as the local Sudanese military start to suspect what they are really using the hotel for.
I would like to think writer / director Gideon Raff and everyone else involved with Netflix’s latest production has the very best of intentions when making The Red Sea Diving Resort and depicting its potentially very harrowing and relevant storyline (which is of course based on a true story), but they do unfortunately miss the mark quite badly. There certainly was plenty of potential for this to be a very emotionally involving story, but yet due to some very poor narrative decisions and a very weak script The Red Sea Diving Resort is yet another film to add to the increasingly long list of very poor Netflix originals.
One of the main issues of this film is that is supposedly about the Ethiopian refugees that the main characters save throughout the narrative. Indeed, there are constant references to the harrowing journey that they make from Ethiopia to Sudan, and then also their appalling treatment they receive in Sudanese refugee camps, but the film very rarely shows this. The main focus is on their saviours, who are a group of walking, talking cinematic clichés.
In isolation clichéd characters are not necessarily an issue if developed properly, but thanks mainly to the flat and clunky script Chris Evan’s protagonist is so painfully clichéd to the point that it is hard to truly care about him or believe in him. He is your classic reckless maverick that has no care for protocol that takes unnecessary risks that endanger both his life and those of his colleagues. The problem is that the script seems to complacently think that is enough to get the audience to truly route for him, and though there is no denying what he is doing is a good and just cause, more is needed for us to really be able to route for him. Likewise, the rest of cast are just a group of individual caricatures; the calm one that cracks jokes, the angry one with a grudge against the main character, the ruthless one and of course, the woman.
The performances are competent (if unspectacular), but even the most committed Oscar-worthy performances would not be able to elevate such a lacklustre script. Maybe it is just sheer laziness and incompetence on the part of writer / director Gideon Raff or worse, complacency in treating the audience like total idiots, and just assuming that as it is about an admittedly very emotive subject that is enough for us to feel an emotional connection with the narrative without any actual effort having to be made by those making it. To add insult to injury, over the closing credits we are then given some real pictures of what actually happened, so it is basically Gideon Raff shouting at the audience saying: “have some real pictures of the true story to make up for my incredibly lazy script, you idiots!”
I will of course refrain from going into too much detail of the politics and truth involved in this film as there are people fare more qualified than myself to do so, but I can analyse it as a film and whether it works, and it fails quite miserably with what I believe it is trying to achieve. The Red Sea Diving School seems to think it is the new Schindler’s List or Hotel Rwanda, by simply having what is (I assume, as I have no knowledge of it) a really interesting and quite harrowing true story as its source material. However, despite a lengthy running time of 130 minutes the entire focus is on its, 2 dimensional and clichéd main characters. Indeed, the tone of the film is often borderline inappropriate, with a montage of our ‘heroes’ working at the ‘hotel’ to Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf, which is so inappropriate and cringe-inducing that it feels like the entire film is some kind of sick spoof.
A perfect of example of how to use an emotive true story and turn it into hubristic self-indulgence; Thanks to very poor and lazy script The Red Sea Diving Resort misses the mark very badly indeed.