the red sea diving resort trailer

When you see your brother or your sister struggling, you must not remain silent. Do not remain still. Go to their aid. Help them.

Last week, we spent a little bit of time talking about the very real crisis that wreaked havoc on Ethiopia through the ’70s and ’80s. Specifically, we focused on the crisis of the Ethiopian Jews. We did so to discuss the subject matter of Netflix’s most recent film, The Red Sea Diving Resort. Now that I’ve had a chance to check out the film, I figured it was only appropriate to talk about the film itself.

One of the first things The Red Sea Diving Resort does is acknowledge that the crisis in Ethiopia wasn’t solely faced by their Jewish population, and that the film will only be focusing on their story. It’s an unnecessary but appreciated context. After the brief voice over acknowledgement from Kabede (Michael Kenneth Williams), the story primarily focuses on Ari Levinson (Chris Evans) and his team.

Ari’s a “screw the rules” upstart focused on saving the refugees whatever the cost, even if that cost is human life. His best friend, Sammy (Alessandro Nivola) plays his polar opposite. The two will come to blows over their differences before the final credits roll. They’re joined by unexpected muscle, Rachel (Haley Bennett); the diving expert, Jake (Michiel Huisman); and hitman, Max (Alex Hassell). 

There are a few warts, like some weird fadeouts and a couple of tertiary stories that make little sense, but The Red Sea Diving Resort has some worthwhile conversations woven into the plot. Ari and Sammy playing opposite extremes highlights an important debate between when it’s time to throw out the rulebook and do whatever we can to save those in need, and when it’s time to play it cautious lest we lose more people than we save. Jake’s character, though mostly aloof throughout the majority of the heavy subject matter, has a line early on acknowledging that one of the worst genocides in history was occurring, but no one cared because it was happening in Africa. There’s also an extremely relevant closing monologue from Kabede quoted at the start of this review.

Despite the refugee’s leader being given the opening and closing monologues, very little of the story is allowed to focus on him and his people. Kabede is the only one we know by name. Though part of that can be chalked up to the nature of the film, and the ever-revolving door of refugees they’re smuggling out of the country, it would have been nice to have been allowed more of a connection with the people the team was saving. I would have been willing to sacrifice at least two Chris Evans workout moments for this! 

That admittedly major complaint aside, I enjoyed the film. It showcases some difficult moments, highlighting just what these people are trying to flee from. A woman chooses to drown rather than be further abused or to see any more of her people slaughtered, and we’re shown several terrifying displays of force from the monstrous government figures. Heather, the sole female of the primary team, is given more to do than simply standing around and looking pretty (low bar, but still something I actively watch for). And, while it sugars up some pretty grim history, it does so in the ways we expect from Hollywood rather than laying it on too thick.

In the article discussing the aforementioned history, I mentioned that my biggest hope was that films like these would help raise awareness and empathy for the refugee crises happening around the globe. The Red Sea Diving Resort closes with Kabede’s monologue and a note that there are over sixty-five million displaced refugees around the world. That’s nearly double the population of Canada, all trying to flee humanitarian crises and often being met with apathy by both governments and the citizens of the countries they’re trying to flee to. So, whether this film ends up being for you, or leaves you rolling your eyes, I hope you take time to look up how you can help refugees in your area. Do it for Kabede! 

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