The Reel Review
In 1981, as tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were starving in refugee camps amidst a brutal civil war and famine, Israeli Mossad agents concocted a plan to evacuate them by sea by re-establishing a previously abandoned hotel on the Sudanese coast and using it as the base for a three-year-long secret operation. This Netflix film starring Chris Evans, Haley Bennett (Girl on the Train, Music and Lyrics) and Ben Kingsley is VERY loosely based on that humanitarian mission, reminiscent of Ben Afflick’s 2012 Best Picture Oscar-winner Argo.
There’s just one problem. While the cloak-and-dagger element of sneaking people out of a country is similar to Argo, this bland, cliché-ridden story bears no resemblance either in its intensity or its writing. Writer/director Gideon Raff, one of the main writers of Showtime’s popular Homeland TV series, sets a jarringly inappropriate, almost Charlie’s Angels type tone with more focus on nudity and petty squabbling among its sexy male characters than on the courageous refugees, who serve as little more than extras in their own story. We never learn much detail about the daring missions or what the refugees endured in their quest to be evacuated to Israel.
The only redeeming aspect of this disappointingly silly film is some nice cinematography and the fact that the much more interesting real story of the Arous Holiday Resort has, as a result, come to light.
• While the Mossad agents running the Arous resort surprisingly turned a small profit, even introducing windsurfing to Sudan, the film takes a lot of liberties – no refugees were ever smuggled through the hotel property, and American officials reportedly were unaware of the clandestine operation.
• Although set in Ethiopia and Sudan, filming for The Red Sea Diving Resort took place in South Africa and Namibia.