The Red Sea Diving Resort: A True Story

Chris Evans, Alessandro Nivola, Haley Bennett, Michiel Huisman, and Alex Hassell in The Red Sea Diving Resort. Photo Credit: Netflix/Marcos Cruz.

Chris Evans leads a cast of Mossad operatives in The Red Sea Diving Resort as they work to rescue Ethiopian Jews and bring them to Israel.

I would imagine that more people know the story behind Operation Moses or Operation Solomon more so than Operation Brothers.  Regardless, this film is a good one to watch as things play out on screen.  Even though we have an idea of what is going to happen, there’s certainly some levels of suspense from time to time.  The film is a good one, I must say.

With civil war raging in Ethiopia, it fell upon Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to make the call.  Do you bring the Ethiopian Jews–known as Beta Israel–back to the Promised Land?  This is a mission that certainly would not be easy and you would have to have a plan so crazy that it could actually work.  This is where an abandoned resort on the coast of Sudan would come to play a key role.  Mossad agent Ari Levinson (Chris Evans), a stand in for Danny Limor, knows this.  As such, he brings it up this crazy idea to Ethan Levin (Ben Kingsley).  If top Mossad leaders don’t sign off on it, a countless number of Jews will die.

He can’t do it alone.  There’s a nice montage where Ari recruits Rachel Reiter (Haley Bennett, portraying Yola), Jacob “Jake” Wolf (Michael Huisman), field doctor Sammy Navon (Alessandro Nivola), and Max Rose (Alex Hassell).  The best of the bunch is the recruitment of Sammy, who we first meet together with Ari during an earlier mission.  On the Ethiopian side, there’s Kebede Bimro (Michael Kenneth Williams) helping with rescue operations.  Even at the end of the film, you get a sense of knowing he wants to do more.

A lot has to play out for this crazy operation to work.  For one, everyone has to be able to get their story straight.  Two, under no circumstances can get blow their cover.  Col. Abdel Ahmed (Chris Chalk) is suspicious of what’s really happening at the Red Sea Diving Resort.  It’s enough that his troops stage an attack or two.  One of which results in the arrests of both Ari and Sammy.

The Israeli government certainly cannot do this alone.  When the going gets tough, the U.S. Embassy’s Walter Bowen (Greg Kinnear), presumably CIA, comes to the rescue of a Middle East ally.  The plane’s arrival during the climax could not come at a better time especially with the opposition closing in.

Gideon Raff directs this film with a sense of a thriller.  There’s some lighter moments here and there especially during a montage of scenes that establish the fake resort becoming a real resort.  Moreover, there are also some tense moments that are well-directed and edited.  One of these is when Bowen gets called in to take a look at the scene of an incident in the south.  You don’t even need to see any bodies because the look in their faces says it all.

Chris Evans might portray a Mossad operative but it isn’t a far stretch from his work as Captain America.  This isn’t to compare the two roles in any way and we get a sight of his abs an hour into the film.  This may be based on a true story but in another universe you might think of it as Captain Steve Rogers rescuing those in need.  I know…it’s a stretch!  He does a good job in the role to say the least!  In watching some of his scenes, I couldn’t help but picture him delivering the same lines as Captain America especially when he goes face to face with Kinnear’s Walter Bowen.

If there’s a problem with the film, it’s that the Mossad operatives take the big focus.  People such as Kebede Bimro, based on the real-life Farede Yazazao Aklum, deserve a bigger focus.  In real life, Aklum continued working for Mossad.  He’s a hero for what he did with this operation.  This is a major problem because some thirty years later, Ethiopian Jews are still having a hard time being fully accepted into society.  It’s a problem within the Jewish community as whole.  There are Jews of color in the US and elsewhere with similar issues.  I’m curious to see how they feel after viewing the film.

The Red Sea Diving Resort may portray the Israeli government as heroes but the real heroes are the Ethiopian Jews who gave everything up because of a yearning for Jerusalem.

CAST:  Chris Evans, Haley Bennett, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michiel Huisman, Alex Hassell, Mark Ivanir, Chris Chalk, with Greg Kinnear and Ben Kingsley

Netflix will release The Red Sea Diving Resort on July 31, 2019. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.