Released: 31st July
Seen: 4th August
In the 1980s there was a huge refugee crisis in Sudan. Thousands of Ethiopian Jewish refugees fled persecution by making an arduous trip to Israel. To help get these refugees from Sudan to Israel, Mossad agents set up a fake hotel as a cover that they used to keep eyes off them while they were sneaking large numbersof refugees to somewhere safer. The entire endeavour was lead by a man named Gad Shimron and he, along with his team, saved over 12,000 people from persecution. It’s a story that Gad put in a book called Mossad Exodus or you can read a condensed version in an article from The Sun. To quote the end of the article “It is, [Gad] says, important to remember that the bravest people in the story aren’t the Mossad operatives but the Ethiopian Jews who endured endless hardships trying to reach Israel by land, sea or air — uncomplaining men, women and children who crowded into trucks, small boats or planes with no guarantee of safe passage.”… but Hollywood decided that they could get Captain America to play a Mossad agent and that changed the focus considerably.
The film adaptation of this story doesn’t stray far from this basic concept, a bunch of Mossad agents lead by Ari Levinson (Chris Evans) try to help a bunch of refugees and use a fake hotel as part of their cover. However, we hit our first major hurdle when you realise that we spend pretty much the entire movie with the Mossad agents who all just happen to be cast as (mostly) white americans, even though they’re playing Israeli Mossad agents. Then you notice that every single person of colour in the film, with literally one exception, either has no dialogue of any kind and is there to be a prop or is the villain of the movie. So this entire story becomes a tale about a bunch of white americans came to save a bunch of black people so get ready for the joy of the discourse, it’s White Saviour Narrative time! This is possibly the most white saviour story I’ve seen in a while because every white person is perfect and trying to help to the point of recklessness while the black people are either desperate and scared or scary men with guns. That’s the divide, the only exception being Kebede Bimro (Michael K Williams) who keeps leading the refugees towards where the Mossad agents are, but we only see him whenever his story intersects with that of the white people. He’s the one doing the hard work and kind of getting shafted in the telling of this story and sadly, that’s the major problem. We’re telling a story about refugees through the lens of how it affects the white people, and that’s messed up.
This isn’t to suggest that the actors who we follow aren’t giving it their all because they are. It’s nice to see Chris Evans doing something that’s not Captain America and while he’s still playing a heroic character, it’s not a goodie two shoes so it’s at least a little different. The other actors playing the agents are also really great and I would love to tell you their character names and what each of them brings but the problem there is that every character is replaceable with a stack of cardboard. The performances are not the problem, everyone is going for broke with what they have but what they have is a name and a direction to look concerned while helping the people-props move from the truck to the boat. If our leads have no real characters to work with, then god help me in trying to explain who the people of colour are in this film. Again, everyone here is a good actor who did what they could with what they had but they didn’t have characters to work with so it is a testament to the talent of the actors that I was able to care if they made it out. I mean, I cared about the refugees making it to safety because I’m a decent human being but the leads? I cared because they were likable people, but not relatable characters.
This also isn’t helped by the actual film itself which feels like it has large sections cut out that could’ve helped. Characters get shot in the chest and are bleeding into their lungs but the next scene they’re fine. There are several times when I just had no idea how a certain person got to a specific location, time seemed to mean nothing and there weren’t any great moments. There was exactly one time when it looked like they had something, namely when the characters have to quickly turn their fake hotel into a real hotel. That’s where this film probably should’ve focussed, lean into the comedic idea of having to try to run an actual hotel while also sneaking refugees out. They do it in a montage and it’s the most interesting moment in the film where they have to go between teaching Yoga to tourists in the afternoon and smuggling people out at night. If that had been the whole movie, maybe I could’ve even looked past the nothing characters and white saviour nonsense and actually enjoyed the film but instead, it has one bright spot of promise surrounded by a load of beige with the words “We tried” written in the dirt.
The Red Sea Diving Resort tries so hard to be taken seriously, it wants you to go along with it on an emotional ride and in brief moments that’s absolutely possible, but not for me. Once you get through the white saviour nonsense and the paper-thin characters, you’re left with a story that’s interesting but poorly told. This film is maybe worth watching for some good performances and if you’re interested in seeing Captain America’s side-butt, but that’s about all it has going for it. Maybe just go find the books about this event and learn about it that way, because it’s an event we probably should know about… just not like this