Operation Red Sea is the Chinese patriotic military epic that chronicles an elaborate evacuation, loosely based on the Yemen Civil War (2015) that witnessed Chinese military rescuing the 225 foreign nationals and almost 600 Chinese citizens. Like every other military epic, the film follows the most basic template, accessorizing the film with a series of dramatic action set pieces one after another, putting soldiers in a foreign land while the geopolitical relationship is in shambles. It involves a woman in the team who has lost her family in the London blast.
It’s a Black Hawk Down of China. It’s heartbreaking to see that despite following the template, it fails to create an engaging drama out of such complex and critical mission. It suffers from having a lack of characterization to empathise with any character. The absence of the basic humane values to the characters fails to translate the emotional substance in them to keep the audience at the edge and, unfortunately, turns into an exercise in propaganda.
Operation Red Sea opens with an elaborate action set piece to establish the prowess of the 8-person Jiaolong Assault Team (JAT) and the Chinese Navy patrol fleet. Somalian pirates attack the Cargo ship that sets the action in motion. The distress call is made to Navy fleet that immediately deploys the JAT to counteract the pirate attack until the Chinese fleet arrives with heavy arms and ammunition.
Dante Lam, known Operation Mekong & The Sniper and worked under John Woo, uses extensive slo-mo to capture every bullet flying. After a point, it becomes exhaustive and turns into a meaningless action porn. The film follows the recent trend of making the tribute films to the government and military. The action soon shifts to the main plot of the civil war situation in the nation of Yewaire.
The films that involve geopolitical matters are bound to have jingoistic flavour, and it has all the right to be so, but at what cost? There is no character development, except for a journalist that suffers from a manipulative backstory to make her pain tangible but her loud performance and poor writing makes it single-note character. There is no organic flow of narration, no character to sympathise with, ultimately leading to an underwhelming sense of jingoism.
Bullets travel in slow motion. You could see the waves forming around the passage of bullet travel. Missiles are blown up in midair by firing the rain of bullets from Navy fleet. A rocket fired from bazooka gently brushes the edge of pillars before blasting inside the building and blowing up everyone in the vicinity except a Chinese soldier. They recruit a loud and nagging journalist for a mission just after she loses the only purpose of her life: to save the life of her fellow journalist.
“Operation Red Sea” is crammed with such unintelligent pea-brained sequences from the first scene to the end credit. The only redeeming factor is the smart duel between snipers on a dry and dead mountain that comes towards the end of the film. Shot with a sense of urgency, it is exhilarating and tensive. It is one of the most intense scenes in rather uninspiring and forgettable film.
“Operation red sea” is a colossal waste of time and all the resources used to make the film except for its cinematography. The picturesque cinematography blending high contrast with sharp brightness creates a distinctive style that is immersive and impressive. But, alas, the characters and the plot line is not good enough for the experience. In presenting the glorious celebration of Chinese military coup to rescue the hostages, filmmaker ignores the basic grammar of film-making, paving the path for breakneck actions crammed with many graphical violent scenes that don’t do the justice to the narration. It doesn’t feel earned.
Production companies: Bona Film Group, Emperor Motion, Film Fireworks Production, P.L.A Navy Government TV Art Central of China, Star Dream Studio Media
US distribution: Well Go USA Entertainment
Producer: Yu Dong
Executive producer: Candy Leung
Screenplay: Feng Ji
Cinematography: Yuen Man Fung
Music: Elliot Leung
Main cast: Zhang Yi, Huang Jingyu, Hai Qing, Du Jiang, Jiang Luxia, Yin Fang, Wang Yutian, Guo Jiahao, Henry Mak, Zhang Hanyu