The key to Chris Evans' appeal, apart from his obvious good looks and physique, is a cocksure yet calmly commanding composure that no one else quite possesses. There's an ease to him, a sense of the unrushed, as well as a gruff bluntness when decisions, rash or otherwise, need to be made. It's what made him perfect as Captain America and it also makes him ideal, if not overly obvious, casting as American Mossad Agent Ari Levinson in the liberally fictionalised true story, The Red Sea Diving Resort.
What if you sent a group of Israeli intelligence agents to a Muslim country where they might get eaten by Bedouins to run a fake hotel in order to rescue a group of Ethiopian Jews who might or might nor survive a 1,000-kilometre walk across a desert in order to be smuggled out to sea by Israeli Navy SEALs to an Israeli ship disguised as a petroleum service vessel? It's a highly absurd scenario that also happens to be inspired by actual events. Evans' Ari, a composite of several real-life figures, comes up with the idea and, despite his reputation as being reckless and out of control, gets the risky operation greenlit by his highly dubious supervisor (Ben Kingsley) and the spy agency's chief (Mark Ivanir).
Naturally, he can't do it alone so he goes about assembling his team, comprised of former friends and colleagues Rachel Reiter (Haley Bennett), who has quite a way with a choke hold; diving expert Jake Wolf (Michiel Huisman, competing with Evans as to who can be the most shirtless); sharpshooter Max Rose (Alex Hassell); and medical doctor Sammy Navon (Alessandro Nivola), who has always had issues with Ari's dangerous impulsiveness. The team descend upon the titular abandoned Sudanese resort and do their best to deal with the obstacles that surface - some minor like the group of German tourists who arrive, and others major like the villainous military colonel (an effective Chris Chalk), who suspects that they're up to something and who won't stop killing villagers until his suspicions are proven.
One's assessment of the film being either a long haul or a solid brisk bit of business will depend on how one takes to writer-director Gideon Raff's blend of seriousness and levity. In many respects, recognising and underlining the preposterousness of the situation makes for a far more successful and entertaining film. Scenes such as the montage in which Raff depicts the team running the hotel by day and rescuing refugees at night, all whilst set to Duran Duran's "Hungry Like a Wolf," inject an unexpected boldness and energy into the proceedings. There's no denying, however, that the sharp shifts in tone are faults, not necessarily critical ones, in the film's overall circuitry.
More problematic, and not as easily overcome, is the character of Kebebe Birmo (Michael K. Williams), whose plea for help to his friend Ari is the reason the entire narrative exists in the first place. Though he narrates the film, he's a peripheral character in his own story. Perhaps this was Raff's unwieldy way of conveying how the suffering of certain persecuted people is overlooked because of the colour of their skin. However, one interprets it, it's something that prevents the film from being the wholly inspirational tale it aims to be.
The Red Sea Diving Resort
Directed by: Gideon Raff
Written by: Gideon Raff
Starring: Chris Evans, Alessandro Nivola, Haley Bennett, Michiel Huisman, Alex Hassell, Ben Kingsley, Greg Kinnear, Chris Chalk, Mark Ivanir