A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Red Sea Diving Resort is a wartime drama inspired by a true story. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ethiopian Jews in large numbers, marginalized in their country and with few resources, made a valiant effort to migrate to Israel, specifically Jerusalem. Harrowing journeys were common. One notable and continuing rescue effort during this period was conducted by members of the Mossad, Israeli's intelligence service. This movie recounts that effort. Suspense and violence are core elements of the film: gunfire, including vicious, repeated point-blank killings; intense transport chases; narrow escapes; brutal hand-to-hand combat. There are multiple scenes in which fleeing refugees and their determined rescuers come under enemy fire. Frequent expletives are heard (i.e., "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "hell"). Skimpy bikinis (including topless) are seen briefly in one beach sequence; the backside of a naked man is shown. Characters drink alcohol in several scenes; lots of cigarette smoking, one cigar.
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What's the story?
Ari Levinson (Chris Evans) is a heroic Israeli intelligence officer in THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT. After leading a desperate group of Jewish Ethiopians across the border into The Sudan and hiding them in a refugee center, Ari and his teammates, including Sammy (Alessandro Nivola), are ordered back to Mossad headquarters where Ethan (Ben Kingsley) is the boss. There, still concerned about the plight of those he rescued and their leader Kabeda (Michael Kenneth Williams), Ari comes up with an orthodox plan to get them to their final destination...Jerusalem. Using an abandoned, beachside hotel -- The Red Sea Diving Resort -- as a base, the Ethiopians can be smuggled out of Sudan by boat to Israel. Convincing his superiors that he can make it work, and recruiting a team of trusted allies, including Sammy, Rachel (Haley Bennett), Jake (Michael Huisman), and Max (Alex Hassell), Ari sets the plan in motion. The sham resort is up and "running" when the crew makes its first successful nighttime rescue. Then another, and another, until the entire operation is threatened by Sudanese Colonel Abdul Ahmed (Chris Chalk), whose relentless efforts to stop them have dire results.
Is it any good?
A widely-known true story spills the beans on the outcome, but unfortunately this well-intentioned movie as a whole is also predictable. From the opening sequence when a little boy gets separated from his family and "Captain America" is on the scene, is there any doubt? The winning concept of a decrepit resort being resurrected as a stopover spot for the daring rescue of scores of despairing refugees is the best thing about the film. When German tourists mistake the undercover operation for the real thing, The Red Sea Diving Resort has moments of originality and wit. Otherwise, not so much.
Forced conflict between heroes is just that, forced. A cowboy Mossad operative feels like every cowboy cop when there's no depth to the character (a lame effort at giving Ari an estranged family is even cornier that it should have been). And the movie can't escape from the fact that it's another in what is sometimes called a "white savior" view of historical events. Little effort, if any, is made to bring an emotional heart to the despairing but hopeful people at the story's center. Coming in at over two hours, it feels even longer than that. The movie isn't a total dud, because it gives at least some exposure to what was surely a operation of tremendous import when it occurred, and has more than a little resonance given the immigrant crises still in play decades later.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Red Sea Diving Resort. Battle sequences in war movies are expected. Do you think those expectations prepare audiences for that violence? Lessen the impact? Why is it important for families to be aware of the impact of violence, even wartime action, on kids?
Find out the difference between movies that are labeled "a true story," "inspired by a true story" or "based on a true story." Does it matter? Why?
A movie's setting and/or location can be considered a character in the film. How is the desert setting in The Red Sea Diving Resort a crucial element in the story? In what ways might it be thought of as a character?
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