Release Date(s)2018 (July 24, 2018)
Studio(s)Bona Film/Emperor Motion Pictures/Fire Filmworks/Star Dream Studio (Well Go USA)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: N/A
Operation Red Sea opens with an extended sequence showing the elite Chinese navy’s Jiaolong Assault Team foiling a Somalian pirate attack on a container cargo freighter. It’s exciting and sets the tone for plenty of action to follow. Directed by Dante Lam (Operation Mekong), the film is based on actual events — the Chinese navy’s evacuation of nearly 600 Chinese citizens and 225 foreign nationals from the port city of Aden during the 2015 Yemen civil war.
Each member of the team is introduced by a title card stating his name and role, but the story concentrates on team efforts rather than individual characters and their exploits. After the pirate incident and the evacuation of Chinese citizens from the fictional North African country of Yewaire standing in for Yemen, the plot shifts to the rescue of a Chinese embassy official captured captured and held hostage by the rebels. A constantly escalating series of action set pieces, each more impressive and louder than the last, with naval vessels, helicopters, high-tech weapons, and numerous explosions, the movie never lets up on the action. The pace is brisk with a constant energetic progression.
War movie fans will surely enjoy this big-budget picture. Most of the $72 million spent on the movie is evident on screen. A comparable movie shot in the United States would have cost far more. The action is shot from many angles, optimizing its effect as buildings blow up, trucks get hit by mortars and fly into the air, commandos zip-line with weapons blazing, tanks fire at each other in desert combat, and fierce firefights create battlefield blood and mayhem. I can’t recall another movie in which there was not only such a huge amount of action but also such a variety of it.
The film is reminiscent of Hollywood films made during World War II that served as both entertainment and patriotic propaganda, casting American forces as heroic, determined, and unstoppable. Operation Red Sea is very much nationalistic in tone, portraying the Chinese military as a massive steam-roller force, far superior in fortitude and fire power than its foes. Because we don’t learn much about the individual team members, it’s hard to feel any personal connection with then, so even though the special effects are dazzling, they become numbing well before the movie’s running time of 2 hours, 19 minutes elapses. Greater characterization would have balanced the action scenes and allowed us to identify with team members.
Picture and sound quality on this release are both exceptional, with pristine images complemented by a rich Dolby soundtrack. Sound mixing is especially effective, considering the importance of hearing dialogue in the midst of the loud sounds of warfare. In some films high-decibel sounds come off as muddy, but not so here. Each 50-millimeter shell, each blast from a ship’s long-range gun, and each discharged bullet is distinct.
The unrated 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD release is in Mandarin, with available subtitles in English and Chinese. There are no bonus features.
- Dennis Seuling