Operation Red Sea 红海行动 (2018) - China
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Before the patriotism and negative Chinese sentiments comes into play for evaluating the latest Dante Lam blockbuster war disaster epic. On a technical level, it is something to be proud of and with a massive budget to play with Lam manages to use every inch of explosives, bombs, bullets, body counts and effects to make a war epic that is so loud and brutal where it matches Hollywood standards in terms of production values. However, what the film sacrifice in the process is real and engaging characters for the audience to relate towards and in term making it a complex and bloody take on the 2015’s Battle of Yemen where the Chinese naval forces launched a rescue attempt for their Chinese nationals in hostages.
Zhang Yi plays the leader of the pack, but despite given plenty of screen time, fails to connect with the audience. Hai Qing as the French-Chinese journalist and Jiang Luxia as the only female military on the other hand provides the film’s strongest female characters and arc. The rest are largely forgettable and interchangeable as director Dante Lam’s larger than life explosions and large scale action display take centre stage. Of note, it is ironic that the only coward Chinese character is portrayed in a small cameo by Hong Kong’s Simon Yam as the gutless journalist boss, meanwhile every Chinese character is fighting for justice, a hero or even fighting for the truth to be out. Ironic, well it’s needless to be said more.
All in all, if viewed as a war epic own neutral eyes, it is clear that this is a well made war epic that portray the disasters and brutal aspects of well particularly well. We can also see that Dante Lam toned down the nationalist and patriotism aspect on many levels, expect for some deliberate Chinese flags and “we are Chinese navy” inserted on numerous occasions. To be fair, Americans make these kind of films all the time, it is probably unjust to criticise the Chinese for making a splash on this genre nowadays. Still, the film is selected as Hong Kong’s Oscar representation, this is likely to be met with backlash as there are very few true Hong Kong’s local elements within the film and why Simon Yam took such a coward role in the midst of Chinese pride is there for your own interpretation. Whilst I enjoyed the technical achievements, it doesn’t mean I agree with it.
I rated it 7/10