Film review: Red Sea Diving Resort


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, August 2nd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan Basham reviews the new Netflix movie, Red Sea Diving Resort, released this week.

MEGAN BASHAM, REVIEWER: The Red Sea Diving Resort, the latest original film from Netflix, fits easily in the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category. The story is inspired by recently declassified actual events from 1980. It follows a wild Israeli operation to rescue Ethiopian Jews from Sudan and relocate them to the Holy Land.

It’s similar to 2012’s Argo, which centered on a fake film production the CIA used as cover to extract hostages from Iran. But this operation sees Mossad agents acting as seaside hoteliers.

CLIP: So, your idea, just to reiterate, is to send a group of Jews to a Muslim country, to a place where they might get eaten by Bedoins, to run a fake hotel, in order to rescue a group of black Jews who might or might not surivive a 1,000-kilometer walk across the desert to be smuggled out to sea by Israeli Navy Seals to an Israeli ship.

Disguised as a petroleum service vessel. Yeah.

That’s ridiculous.

Shortly after arriving at an abandoned, dilapidated resort in the middle of war-torn Sudan, the group finds its best laid plans running awry in the most providential fashion. A busload of German holidaymakers stumble across the resort’s fake brochure and show up expecting real accommodations. Renegade leader Ari Levinson (played by Chris Evans) realizes the best thing to do is lean into the camouflage the tourists offer. Soon, he and his team are leading tai-chi and snorkeling lessons by day and trying to smuggle refugees past roadblocks and warlords by night.

Within the confines of this often funny madcap adventure, the movie gets at serious themes. Like the Jews, Christians too must reflect on the Biblical mandate to welcome the stranger and what lengths we should go to in order to obey.  Working with local rebel leader Kabede (played by Michael K. Williams), Levinson believes he must risk his life rescuing those who share his faith, if not his country of birth.

CLIP: He who saves one life saves the world entire. 

We just saved 174.

But from the other side of the equation, the film illustrates why playing politics with refugees does a disservice to those who face violent persecution. The U.S. should perhaps change its policies toward those seeking better economic opportunities than their home countries provide. That is something we can fairly debate. But, as this film ably illustrates, destroying the distinctions between immigrant groups risks flooding the system. That could leave true asylum seekers in the hands of their oppressors.

CLIP: State sent cargo planes for us ready to evac in the event things take a turn for the worse. And this refugee crisis, it’s really not helping. You have entire refugee neighborhoods just disappearing into thin air. The U.N. offers a stipend to the Sudanese for every refugee they house so when people start to disappear, that’s just bad for business.

Only crisis we face is whether or not we catch fresh lobster. Kidding.

Well, I just got back from Gedarof where Mukhabarat had executed another 30 people. This is quite serious.

These are difficult outcomes to weigh. But Christians are obligated to do so lovingly and prayerfully.

From a purely entertainment standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rip-roaring spy escapade. Evans brings the charisma we’ve come to expect. And he has strong chemistry with the rest of his team, even, or maybe especially, when they’re at odds over how to proceed. That makes it all the more disappointing that the movie includes so much dopey profanity and distracting near-nudity. In the case of one male character, we see brief actual backside nudity.

Though technically films, Netflix movies aren’t rated by the MPAA the way standard theatrical releases are. And there’s still a lot of misperceptions over how the television ratings apply. To dispel any confusion, you should unfortunately treat The Red Sea Diving Resort as if it were rated R.

Frequent f-bombs and other language don’t feel like they’re included to capture something about a specific character or to authentically reflect a particular subculture. Likewise, two anonymous women who, but for a fraction of a turn toward the camera we’d see topless, are textbook gratuitous. They’re not characters in the story and their lack of bikini tops adds nothing to the narrative.

This isn’t just a moral gripe. A profile shot of an unclothed Evans, vital bits concealed by a strategically bent leg cheapens the seriousness of the story. Sure we want you to feel bad about the refugees, but in the meantime, check out Captain America’s low body-fat percentage! The juxtaposition of these scenes against those showing women and children being summarily executed couldn’t be in worse taste.

It’s popular these days to discuss the “privilege” various demographic groups enjoy at the expense of others in American culture. I’d like to add to that list good-looking celebrities whose perfect bodies are apparently deemed more worthy of our attention than further exploring the experiences of the Ethiopians.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.


(Photo/Netflix)

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