Director: Gideon Raff
Cast: Chris Evans, Mbulelo Grootboom, Sizo Mahlangu, Michael Kenneth Williams, Haley Bennett, Alessandro Nivola, Ben Kingsley
Watch The Red Sea Diving Resort online in the UK: Netflix UK
Marvel icon Chris Evans’ first feature since hanging up his Captain America shield, The Red Sea Diving Resort may sound like the most whimsical of adventures. In truth, and with context of the real life story it’s based upon, it’s anything but a stroll on the beach: it’s a dark and gut-wrenching tale of selflessness.
Set in volatile Sudan in 1977, Evans plays Ari Levinson, who leads a small group of Israeli liberators in an attempt to smuggle hundreds of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants to the safety of Jerusalem. Ari’s accompanied by fellow Mossad agents Rachel Reiter (Haley Bennett), Jacob Wolf (Michiel Huisman), Max Rose (Alex Hassell), and close friend Sammy Navin (Alessandro Nivola), who form a covert team, along with the help of Ethan Levin (Sir Ben Kingsley), to embark on the elaborate plan. They purchase an abandoned hotel (the name of the film) to set up a fake hospitality service as a cover to house and sneak out said refugees.
The premise feels reminiscent of Ben Affleck’s Argo, both in the nature of its outrageous (but historically true) ruse and in its very aesthetic. What these agents weren’t anticipating were actual tourists showing up, because – you guessed it – the place is still advertised as a working hotel, despite having been unoccupied for some time.
As it turns out, occupying the hotel with actual guests only strengthens their faux legitimacy, which is especially handy when local soldiers begin snooping around. But what The Red Sea Diving Resort does well is tell a story in layman’s terms and to make us feel the genuine threat of the mission, as well as implore us to care about the fate of the nameless many being rescued, not just the central figures there to facilitate the escape.
For the most part, the story is engaging and moves in a consistently engrossing and informative manner – offering tidbits of history for audiences to digest without feeling overwhelmed by complex historical context. That said, it does brush over some pretty important areas that’ll leave you frustrated and unfulfilled.
Over the course of a somewhat bulky two hours, we are invited to get to know our characters, but not nearly as much as we’d like. The cast is a well-known mix of talent and household names alike; Kingsley’s peripheral character is joined by Greg Kinnear, who effortlessly slots in and out of the plot at will. Evans offers a reserved performance that allows him to act and show glimmers of an everyday Joe we can relate to, without the glitz his MCU credentials are synonymous with.
The Red Sea Diving Resort is essentially stripped of all Hollywood glamour, in place of a grittier, grimier aesthetic. Director Gideon Raff maintains a low-key, non-gratuitous approach that doesn’t try to sensationalise. The result is a thriller that never overplays its hand and never feels contrived or crass in telling a vital story, but ramps up fear and peril and delivers tension and thrills when needed.
The Red Sea Diving Resort is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.