Based on the name alone, one would think that The Red Sea Diving Resort is some kind of Baywatch-like comedy, especially since it’s a Netflix original film. However, besides the fact that both works take place somewhat on the beach, The Red Sea Diving Resort is entirely different from any Netflix comedy. It’s more similar to Blood Diamond or Argo in that it involves a rescue mission in a volatile foreign country. Back in the late 70s to early 80s, Ethiopian Jews were hunted down and killed all over Sudan for no reason other than prejudice and violence. An Israeli agent (Chris Evans) is determined to rescue as many of the Jewish community as he can by hopefully smuggling them out of Sudan and to Jerusalem. When his options run out, he leases a deserted hotel on the Red Sea in order to ship the refugees out of the country. With the help of some colleagues and the Israeli government, he manages to smuggle thousands of people away from danger while also being hunted by the local authorities.
According to the opening titles, this film is based on a true story, so my comments on this film may not apply because of how the story unfolded. With that being said, The Red Sea Diving Resort is a film with an interesting story to tell that doesn’t know how to tell it. The film never quite rises to the level that it should given the magnitude and stakes of the situation it depicts. Director/writer Gideon Raff clearly has some talent, but he uses so many types of storytelling techniques that the tone ends up getting lost. The movie begins with narration from the main refugee character (Michael Kenneth Williams) in which he describes the horror of the situation and the possible hope that lies in Jerusalem. This tone makes it feel like a gritty and realistic depiction of the events that occured in Sudan during a conflicted time. However, later in the movie a montage sequence occurs with electronic music playing in the background that shows Evans recruiting all of his teammates for the mission. This sequence seems like it was taken straight out of Ocean’s Eleven and is one of many scenes that makes the overall tone confusing.
Because there is no defined mood here and because it switches between lighthearted action thriller to gritty historical drama, it is harder to get invested when the events get serious. However, the film does get far better when the stakes get higher and the serious tone sticks around for every scene. Near the end, I was almost invested in the characters despite not caring about their fates in the first half. But, as I stated before, it never quite reaches the emotional peaks it strives for, so even during the most thrilling of sequences it still seems to fall short.
The biggest problem I have with The Red Sea Diving Resort is where the writer decided to focus the story. The audience follows Evans’ character from beginning to end as we see him save people, stress over his separation with his wife, and work out constantly for some reason. As much as I like Evans and while his performance here is typically well-delivered, I’d much rather see these events from the perspective of the actual refugees. Because the director dwells on the white Israeli protagonists’ bravery, it feels as if they are ignoring the true subjects for little to no reason. In my opinion, this film seems like a “white savior” movie in that the credit is all given to the white and more accessible movie stars instead of the characters who actually deserve the focus. The film would most likely be better in my eyes if Williams’ character was the protagonist and the owners of the actual resort were the supporting characters.
The Red Sea Diving Resort is not bad; it’s just disappointingly average given how interesting this story is. The direction is even really good at times–a transition shot involving a plane and some overheard shots show creativity is at least present–but at other times the transitions can be painfully bland, with fades and scrolls that make it feel like a PowerPoint presentation. The filmmakers definitely had the right idea by looking for a feature film in this story and it’s still an entertaining watch once the second half begins, but the approach they took doesn’t seem to pay off in the way they had probably hoped.
I give The Red Sea Diving Resort a C+.