Monday, August 19, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Red Sea Diving Resort

The Red Sea Diving Resort
Directed by Gideon Raff
Released July 31, 2019

Throughout history, many clandestine efforts and operations have been undertaken both by established law enforcement agencies and those considered unofficial military groups or resistance fighters to help oppressed people find their way to safety. As new regimes take power or dangers are extinguished, or sometimes following the natural deaths many years later of those involved, these stories are exposed to the public. They might immediately become a sensation, recounted internationally across a plethora of news sources, or remain a low-key piece of history just waiting to be spotlighted by someone who understands its significance.

In the 1980s, Ethiopian Jews face dangerous conditions as a result of unrest within their country. Kabede (Michael K. Williams) makes contact with Ari (Chris Evans), an agent of the Israeli Mossad, to help protect his people once they make their way to a refugee camp in Sudan. After his cover is nearly blown and he must go back to Israel, Ari proposes a daring operation to his superiors. With a small team, he will travel to Sudan under the guise of buying the Red Sea Diving Resort, an abandoned property that will serve as a front for smuggling the Ethiopian Jews out. The notion isn’t as far-fetched as it initially seems, but the resort does attract some surprising attention, both from a Sudanese colonel (Chris Chalk) on the hunt for disappearing refugees and actual tourists eager to experience the illusion the agents are selling.

If this film sounds a whole lot like “Argo,” that’s because it is. A deadly serious event is turned into light-hearted spy fare, with many situations heightened and dramatized in a way that doesn’t appear to do justice to what actually occurred, which is an amalgamation of Israel’s real-life Operation Moses and Operation Joshua. It’s difficult to accept many of the holes in this film’s narrative that make their efforts feel all too successful when they’re nearly completely exposed at other random moments. It’s not as if the material isn’t treated sensitively, but rather that this story, as told in this fashion, is far too thin and unengaging. It’s not even the spectacle it could be, were historical details to be sacrificed for the sake of entertainment.

Where this film falls flattest in its attempt to depict Israeli characters with no accents whatsoever. Evans, while a strong choice to play Captain America, doesn’t have any traits resembling real-life or cinematic Mossad agents, and while Ben Kingsley is always a welcome presence in any film, his suit-wearing supervisor feels deeply inauthentic. Last year, Kingsley played the target of a Mossad operation in “Operation Finale,” a film that also didn’t try to emulate Israeli accents or antics but still felt far more genuine. This film feels far from vital, which is hardly fitting for a project with this cast and this premise.


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