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Film Review: Operation Red Sea (2018) - Dismantling Propaganda Dogma

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

FILE PHOTO: A Poster of OPERATION RED SEA (2018).  ©Bona Film Group Limited
FILE PHOTO: A Poster of OPERATION RED SEA (2018). ©Bona Film Group Limited

Hong Kong director Dante Lam and his Hong Kong staffs with Mainland Chinese filmmaker units perfectly collaborated in this blockbuster war action film.

It highly exceeds War Wolf series (2015-17) that the top Asian box office hit film franchise in film history.

China is the most successful socialist country and its film policy is socialist realism.

The origin of this tradition was Chapayev (1937) and Alexander Nevsky (1939).

You can see old fashioned propaganda films are bureaucratically failed in dogmatism and mixed with art film style in the past. They just hated Hollywood genre films in terms of propaganda war.

What they forgot in the past was what Lenin and Eisenstein said for filmmaking.

Eisenstein said: 'Applying all valuable achievements in the art practices in the past no matter whether it's feudalistic or capitalistic. Moreover, there is no so called 'socialist culture'.

There will be only humanistic culture within classless society.' This is the true NEP in filmmaking. That is the true 'socialist realism' if use this term not in the Stalinist meaning.

The contemporary Chinese filmmakers consciously learned both Hollywood and Hong Kong genre filmmaking that the most people enjoy in the modern society.

That does not mean abandon of socialism but it is the necessary evolution of technology and learning the most advanced stage of development of capitalist cultural devices are necessary for socialist filmmaking.

The Operation Red Sea (2018) is based on The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA)'s anti-pirates and anti-terrorist operations in Africa and Middle East regions.

This topic itself is a realist approach to the politically important and meaningful incidents that are really photogenic.

There are several features I found in this viewing of this film below:

1. Editing is more sophisticated than War Wolf in terms of multi-camera genre film operation. It keeps axis for cutting.

2. Consciously exploring expressions in angles, moments and spaces with VFX. We can see unusual deep expressions in dismantling bombs and shot bullet action lines in slow motioned CG.

3. Sand Storm sequence is obviously exceeding others that acting in sand storm is actually not done by others ever before. In ordinary films, sand storm in war film is something just should be avoided. On the other hand, this film fully shows dramatical use of inner sand storm environment.

4.Cinematography is perfect for avoiding TV like visual expression like War Wolf. However, it is weak in the interior of battleship sequences' filming. The lighting is TV studio-like result contrary to the sun lighted exterior scenes in this film.

5.Simon Yam is the only one speaks Cantonese with Putonghua speakers that is pretty weird. Should unify the language or Cantonese conversation is more natural. This unnaturally constructed scene is something from Hong Kong director's psychology.

6. War realism is realist expression of wounds, mutation and dead. Lucio Fulci-like realist approach to ugliness of real wounds, dead and mutation among roles are really effective and new.

In conclusion, this is the perfect example of the cutting edge technology of Chinese filmmaking in 2018. And socialist realism is evaluated under the Chinese government leadership. It resolved anti-genre film dogmatism that cursed by old fashioned Stalinist thought.

I mostly appreciate this Hong Kong and Mainland China film collaboration that solves difficulties of Hong Kong film industry.

The Operation Red Sea is the one which has the high quality of Hollywood filmmaking standard and competitive with Hollywood films in terms of localization.


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