During the early 1980 s, a group of Israeli Mossad agents under the guise of” Operation Friend” purchased the Arous Holiday Village, an abandoned beach resort off the coast of Sudan. Its intent: to serve as a cover for smuggling thousands of Jewish-Ethiopian refugees from Sudan to Jerusalem, a journey known as aliyah . It’s a narrative rooted in ancient Hebraic notions of exile and redemption, a return to the Holy Land through God’s promise.
DIRECTOR: Gideon Raff
This political thriller lands somewhere between’ Argo’ and’ Munich’ but without the emotional punch or subtlety of either.
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That should have been the foundation for Gideon Raff’s pseudo-political thriller The Red Sea Diving Resort , a shame of a movie that had the potential to shed light on a vital historical movement. Instead, the result is a tragically bland spy flick that spotlights white Israeli heroism at the expense of those who were actually persecuted.
The forever-smoldering Chris Evans superstars as Ari Levinson, a reckless agent who pitches the harebrained scheme of posing as the head of a Swiss travel company to escort thousands of Ethiopian Jews through a bogus scuba diving lodge and into Israeli ships that are able to take them to Israel. It’s a ridiculous idea, yet it ran, and it builds for an excellent movie plot.
It’s clear what The Red Sea Diving Resort is going to be from the start. The first scene involves Levinson going out of his route to save a young son who, for whatever reason, was separated from his family.( Sudanese activists had long been persecuting Ethiopian Jews, and it seems highly unlikely that any mom would allow her child to stray out of view in such conditions .) When he gets back to the truck, Kabede Bimro( the talented Michael K. Williams playing a useless composite character) tells Ari he’s crazy. That’s the cinema in a nutshell: Black people get reduced to victims or tyrants who are at the compassion of paternalistic, good-hearted white Israelis who take ridiculous risks.
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The Red Sea Diving Resort has some redeeming moments, such as the missions’ success. But Raff incorporates unusual bits of comedy into an altogether unfunny situation, life-and-death circumstances that the white characters could easily avoid wholly. Worse is the flattening out of all the Black characters, who get reduced to familiar tropes and stereotypes. ( Gotham ‘ s Chris Chalk is an exception, reveling in darkness as the homicidal Sudanese head officer .)
The film completely dismisses the heroic middlemen, the African agents who put in the yeoman’s work of connecting the refugees with Mossad( and American CIA) supporting. There’s also zero explanation of how Sudan’s chaotic condition came to fruition. Raff’s script provides some inclusivity, but it’s of the” All Lives Matter” range and fails to recognize the casual dehumanization of Black people. Unless it is for purposes of genocide or greed, the Black characters retain no agency.
Landing somewhere between Argo and Munich but absence the emotional punch or nuance of either, The Red Sea Diving Resort can only be called a frustration. Raff had all he needed: talented actors and an exhilarating story that deserved cinematic therapy. It’s a shame he reduced his movie to hero worship of the worst kind.
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