The Red Sea Diving Resort has been dubbed ‘the true story you need to see to believe’, and thanks to Israeli filmmaker Gideon Raff (Homeland), now we can. The long-awaited film has finally hit the Netflix airwaves since its fate was unknown after filming back in 2017. This review will have mild spoilers but nothing plot revealing.
The operation of the Red Sea Diving Resort (known as Operation Brothers) took place in the 1980s as an undercover mission to liberate thousands of Jewish Ethiopian refugees from the brutal gangs of Sudan. The Israeli government leased out an abandoned Italian diving resort in Sudan on the Red Sea, utilizing it as a tourist getaway (quite successfully) while smuggling out thousands of Ethiopians in the dead of night.
The story itself is remarkable — a rare “it’s so crazy it just might work” idea — but I felt the film glossed over the mission itself. Whether that be from time restraint or fear of the film being too dark for general audiences, there were a lot of filler scenes that really didn’t add much to the film or what these Mossad agents were trying to accomplish. There’s some good banter, a few funny scenes and a couple of classic self-sacrificial cliches embedded into the heavier material, again, I believe to lighten the plot and for that it does succeed. It seemed as if they wanted to keep Chris Evans in his Captain America role, the selfless, virtue-upholding leader, making Ari Levinson seem a little too good to be true at times. Despite that, Evans plays the part well, giving his all as he typically does in all of his projects. Of course, there are heroic rescues and insight into the savagery the Ethiopians had to endure, but all in all I felt the story never gained its footing. Instead, it awkwardly transitioned from one event to the next, the tone of the film switching a few times. However, the story does get told to completion, and the real-life footage in the credits really makes it all hit home and you can see how well replicated some of that imagery was in the film itself.
The highlight for me was the dynamic between Chris Evans and Alessandro Nivola. Evans plays the mission’s lead agent, Ari, while Nivola supports as his begrudged field doctor partner through every step of the way, Sammy Navon. The way they play out their conflicts (mostly originating from Navon), whether that be with each other or the work at hand, was a great give and take. I wish we’d gotten to see both a little more of the complexity of their relationship and these two great performers. I enjoyed all five of the main Mossad team, but special kudos to Haley Bennett as Rachel Reiter. Being the only female on the team, she was well-written and strong, Bennett playing her to perfection.
We’re all just refugees, aren’t we? -Rachel Reiter
The message of the film is clear, even if it may have been lacking in action-packed sequences and heart-wrenching scenes. This is a story about humanity and compassion in a world that’s beginning to lose touch with those virtues. At the core of it, these men and women saw suffering and went to great lengths and through great risk to help their fellow brothers and sisters. And that’s a feat I think we can all take something away from.
The Red Sea Diving Resort is available now on Netflix.