After witnessing the plight of the persecuted Jewish community in Ethiopia, Israeli Mossad agent Ari Levinson (Chris Evans) assembles a team to help him smuggle the refugees out through Sudan to Israel – via an abandoned diving resort.
All the elements were there – a unique socio-political setting many mainstream movie goers wouldn’t be familiar with, a decent cast, and a blend of drama and thriller elements. The Red Sea Diving Resort had all the tools needed to ride a wave of success. Instead it took on water within the first 10 minutes and didn’t stop sinking from there.
Director and screenwriter Gideon Raff, most famous for penning episodes of political thriller series Homeland, hits all the wrong notes from the start with jarring transitions between action sequences. It seems like a minor flaw – but with more scene wipes, iris-outs, and pinwheel transitions than a school Powerpoint project, The Red Sea Diving Resort felt schtick-ish. This works stylishly for certain directors – like Guy Richie – whose works blend comedy and action with more tongue-in-cheek. When handling material as serious as the persecution of refugees, it comes across as tacky. While this is a serious flaw, Raff doesn’t try to own any bombastic thriller-trope-lampoon style either. This means the film swings wildly between hard-boiled action sequences and light comedy or petty arguments between leading characters. No clear direction or narrative intention means we can never fully reach the depths of The Red Sea Diving Resort, and instead need to constantly surface for a break from it.
Raff also somehow manages to make a shockingly true story scarcely believable for all the wrong reasons. Part of the Mossad agents’ cover was running the resort as a real hotel. This could have provided the film’s comic moments, or its tensest scenes. Instead the narrative near-completely skims over this fact, leading to many head-scratching loose ends. The pacing of The Red Sea Diving Resort was also odd, with even the action scenes laboured. A sequence involving a truck full of vulnerable refugees charging a road barricade ignored obvious safety risks for action’s sake. A scene in which one of the team kills a snooping solder during a hotel inspection also had shockingly little tension. The rest of the script was average too, with the dialogue tired and heavy on played-out hero tropes. That meant any reprieve we could have had from all-out action sequences was sorely lacking.
The acting performances in The Red Sea Diving Resort also left a lot to be desired. Chris Chalk performed well as the malicious Colonel Abdel Ahmed, the antagonist and wild-eyed leader of the Sudanese police, but ultimately did nothing new with a character stereotype that has been played well by many. Evans, in his first role since finishing up the Avengers franchise, is one-dimensional as protagonist Ari Levinson. His hero archetype style that worked with the squeaky-clean Captain America simply doesn’t translate to a more realistic and grittier political thriller. The supporting (and impressive on paper) cast are also flat and uninspired, phoning in big moment after big moment. The lack of any female characters with depth further damns the film as a washout of the thriller genre’s biggest hits, sucking the final ebbs of life out of what could have been a truly compelling story.
An interesting narrative is mostly flattened by limp characters, uneven pacing and a lengthy run time. 4/10.