Starring: Zhang Yi, Huang Jingyu, Hai Qing
Director: Dante Lam
Running Time: 138 mins
Operation Red Sea is a Chinese film about a PLA Navy Marine operation that is deployed in the Middle East to defuse a brutal hostage situation in a nation plagued with the chaos terrorism and lawlessness.
As far as being a big, hulking action blockbuster, Operation Red Sea ticks all the boxes. It’s loud, it’s fast, and it’s full of endless action from beginning to end. Seriously, the action never really stops for even a moment over the course of 138 minutes, and although that provides for some entertaining sequences, it doesn’t do all that much to really engross you, as the story beneath the action significantly lacks in depth and drama.
Before we get into that, however, let’s look at what this film does well. Above all, when it’s trying to be an all-out action film, Operation Red Sea does the job. Although I can’t say it features the incredible intensity of Saving Private Ryan, the film is full of entertaining and rapid-fire battle sequences and shootouts from beginning to end, and that means there’s bound to be a moment to grab your attention.
Given that it is almost two and a half hours of totally non-stop action, not every big set-piece is as exciting as the next, and alongside the significant lack in dramatic depth, that means there are moments when the film can get really boring. On the whole, however, if you’re looking for a dumb, rapid-fire action movie that’s full of guns and explosions, then this film will surely satisfy you, featuring exactly that from beginning to end, and even showcasing some of the best special effects from a Chinese production in recent years.
With that said, however, there’s not really all that much more to praise about Operation Red Sea. The action is the centre of the movie, and the fact that it does that well and makes that entertaining means it’s not a total failure of a film, but as we know, you need a little bit of depth and character development to grab an audience’s attention right the way through.
With the exception of Dunkirk, which uses unprecedented intensity and innovative techniques to bypass the need for a deep story, it’s almost impossible to remain fully engaged in any film if there’s not something a little more relatable to it than shooting and bombing. Yes, that’s all good fun to watch at times, but it does get tiring after a while, meaning that the gaping hole that is the lack of depth was even more visible here.
Although there are brief moments of attempted emotion and drama – and a noticeable break in the endless action – the majority of the film just doesn’t ever manage to let you connect with its characters on a level that would make the threat of the battle more intense and frightening.
There is an argument that, as the film is fiercely patriotic towards China, then Chinese viewers would feel more of an emotional impact than others, similar to a lot of Hollywood’s jingoistic American productions. It’s a pretty much identical vibe for any viewers who watch those movies from a neutral standpoint, so it shouldn’t have that much of an impact, and certainly shouldn’t be used as an excuse for a lack of character depth.
Overall, Operation Red Sea is undoubtedly an impressive watch when it comes to the action side of things, barely letting up for even a second over the course of its mammoth runtime, as well as featuring some properly decent battle sequences. However, due to a lack of depth and any sense of emotional drama, it’s difficult to really engage with the film beyond a superficial level, and as a result, it quickly becomes a rather tiring and ultimately boring watch, which is why I’m giving it a 7.0.