It’s important to know how to make movies but Netflix’s, The Red Sea Diving Resort, could be a lesson in how NOT to make movies. The film tries to take a look at a real-life mission, from the early 80’s. A group of international agents, working with the Israeli government, use a fake hotel and real guests as a front, to smuggle Ethiopian refugees to the Promised Land. This idea alone has the potential to be an epic film, but the Netflix Original, starring Chris Evans, is a complicated mess.
I watched this film with my housemates, and for the first half of the film, we couldn’t decide if the agents were from Israel and just weren’t even trying for Israeli accents or if they were all meant to be from the US.
At one point, Evans’ character explains he was raised in the US, but what about the others? And what about all those in the Israeli government? And if they didn’t have accents, why did the Ethiopians? The acting, outside of this bizarre choice, was enjoyable, but because it was such a blaring and confusing mix on the accents front, it left me and my housemates wondering what in the world was happening. And took us out of the story.
Another point of contention for me was the strong introduction of each character that then went nowhere. It felt like a waste of great actors. Especially in the case of Michiel Huisman and Haley Bennett.
Bennett’s character was introduced as a no-nonsense one-woman spy, who can take care of herself on solo missions, and transformed into nothing more than a glorified receptionist, who spent most of her time listening to the dangerous missions via the radio transmissions, and ended as what appeared to be the love interest for one of the other agents.
Likewise, Huisman’s character started off as a confident womanizer turned … well, to be honest, it kinda felt like they forgot he existed.
Such a waste.
The other major issue was the execution of the plot. Yes, it’s difficult to encapsulate such a long period (roughly 2 years of missions) into a 2-hour movie, but even then, it’s 2 freaking hours, I should remember names and events in a more clear manner than what it left me with.
It started with a rushed mission with Evans’ character, Ari, and his side-kick, Sammy, played by Alessandro Nivola and their Ethiopian contact Kabede, played Michael Kenneth Williams. They get arrested, rescued, sent home, and then Ari comes up with the hotel plan, which is followed by a rushed first mission and weird, unexplained tension between Ari and Sammy.
And then things just continue to get confusing and messy.
Even small moments lose their comedic or pivotal timing. One in particular, where Bennett’s character has to photocopy passports on an imaginary machine, made my housemates and I laugh, but only after the scene ended and we realised what was happening.
But what really upset me was the final mission. Filled with bad guys closing in, car chases, threats and murders, and a miraculous plane rescue it should have kept me on the edge of my seat. Instead, I was trying to fill in holes and gaps in the storytelling with moments they made vital and then forgot to follow up on.
The biggest of these was when Ari asked two of his team of five if they were willing to do this one last mission. Their chance of survival wasn’t good and they no longer had the Israeli government helping. It was a moment we needed to see all of them make the choice to be part of this last rescue, but it only showed one of them agreeing to it!
I really wanted to like this film, I was excited about the cast, the concept, and loved that it was based on real events, but the film felt like the rough and raw first draft instead of the polished and final version. Still, I’m glad I watched it. If for no other reason than to somehow honour those real-life agents who risked their lives for others and gain new inspiration for my next creative endeavour, only wish the filmmakers of The Red Sea Diving Resort had risked more too.