Jew Review: ‘Red Sea Diving School’

Remember Steven Spielberg’s Munich? Now that was a great film! No, it wasn’t flawless by any means, but mostly exquisite. I always felt the final scene sent the wrong message. Geoffery Rush refusing to break bread with Eric Bana, is sore and spiteful that our trauma-scorched hero no longer wishes to work for the Mossad. The implication being there is some unmendable rift between the hawks and the doves, the right and left, the diaspora and the Israelis, the dutiful soldiers, and the questioning philosophers. While there is certainly a rift of politics, religion, and philosophy regarding the conflict – my life experience continuously reveals the opposite: I know for a fact that in Israel, and all over this country, Jews (and gentiles) with diametrically polar perspectives than their family, friends, and colleagues put their opinions aside and share Shabbat dinners.

So why did Spielberg have Geoffery Rush’s character refuse Eric Bana’s invitation?

I’m not sure, but I could speculate. Together we could discuss, debate, pontificate, expound, and just maybe as a result of our dialectic exchange we level up into a higher dimension of comprehension, awareness, and perspective toward a contentious and multi-layered issue. The film Munich invokes an exploration of deep issues related to Judaism, nationalism, war, peace, trauma, and the search for moral answers within this grueling and paradoxical realm we call existence. Such was the effect of Munich.

Netflix’s Dead Sea Diving Resort… Not so much.

Weak tropes, indecisive pacing, and maudlin Hollywood banalities fueled this forgettable flop film. The talented supporting cast was wasted with shallow character development and bad writing. And the quality performances by Michael Kenneth Williams, Haley Bennet, and Alessandro Nivola seemed to highlight the horrible acting of Chris Evans. They even brought in the actor who played Dario Naharis from Game of Thrones who was kinda propped up to give smoky stares and say nothing. There was some chemistry between Chris Evans’ Mossad agent and Greg Kinnear’s CIA liaison, but you know a movie is in trouble when the most charismatic character is played by Greg Kinnear.

Do you know what I’ve always enjoyed most about the Israeli people? Conversations! Israeli people are wry and witty and opinionated, yet somehow there wasn’t a single playful, insightful, humorous conversation between a team of five Israeli Mossad agents and a busload of Germans!?

This reminds me of that time the Vikings played at Philadelphia. Yeah, that game.

DSDR had an opportunity to convey an important and compelling piece of world history. After thousands of years living in Ethiopia, a lost tribe of Israel returned to their Promised Land. Mossad agents posing as Europeans managing a diving resort as civil war, famine, and guerilla death squads swept across Ethiopia and Sudan. This could have been stylish and dynamic and witty. It could have been powerful and telling and affecting. I was really hoping for a Munich meets Blood Diamond kind of thing – or if that’s too much, at least a Mission: Impossible meets Defiance meets Little Drummer Girl. But alas, the lazy tropes and undeveloped characters made it a truly painful experience.

Chris Evans’ character is fresh out the microwave with his cliché backstory: Divorced with a strained relationship with his daughter who he never sees, superiors don’t trust his methods or judgment or record, (but they still let him run wild with total impunity and autonomy). Oh yeah, and his former friend and colleague don’t want to work with him because of that ambiguous incident in the past that went wrong, presumably because Ari is a loose cannon who writes his own rules. I can’t remember and no one cares. Not for a split second did I believe Chris Evans as an Israeli Mossad agent named, Ari. Not once. Never. No.

So much wasted talent in this movie. Williams (Omar from HBO’s The Wire) plays Kabede Bimro, The Ethiopian-Jewish rebel leader smuggling his kin out of Ethiopia, to Sudanese refugee camps, then out of the camps to the Dead Sea Diving Resort where they get transported by the Israeli Navy back to Israel.

Williams’ character was given no range. He is always on the verge of tears, pleading in a maudlin accent. It’s not that his performance was poor, it was just that his character was so thin. It was the Jewish-Ethiopian rebel activists who sought out help from the Israeli government, arguing the legitimacy of their Jewish identity, and lobbying for political help while strategizing smuggling operations amidst civil war and famine. His character could have been given a bit more credit. The lives of his family were the ones in the balance, but there’s no actual character development. Watching this movie, you’d think Captain America unilaterally discovered the Jews of Ethiopia and forced the Israeli government to take action.

That is not to say there were historical inaccuracies as far as I could tell. The close calls and ironies of this mission were depicted very well, and to that, I give director Gideon Raff some credit.

I’m glad this film was made because this story in history needs to be shown, but it’s a shame it wasn’t done with better writing and acting. We need more high-quality movies that provoke deep questions and arouse engaging dialogue. We need more movies like Munich.