By Dawson Martin
STREAMING NOW ON NETFLIX
Director Spike Lee has been an important force in filmmaking since the late 1980’s. He’s the most famous filmmaker in African American cinema and arguably the greatest. In 2018, Spike released one of his greatest films, BlacKkKlansman. It garnered 6 Academy Award nominations and it won best screenplay. This period for Spike has really been a late career high. Fresh off the success of BlacKkKlansman comes his latest film: Da 5 Bloods.
Da 5 Bloods follows four African American veterans as they later return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. This is a "Spike Lee Joint" like I’ve never seen before. This film is a masterful genre blend of full throttle action, adventure, comedy, and hard-hitting drama. This sounds like a hard task to balance, but Spike does it exceptionally. If you’ve ever seen a “joint” before, you know he loves to blend real history in his films as well. Spike gives a voice to people that have always been denied in Vietnam war films. Try to think of some war films in your head and name some that feature African Americans. Truth is, you probably can’t, because Hollywood has denied them that outlet. Da 5 Bloods shines a light on the black experience of Vietnam and its effects it has on its soldiers. They were fighting an immoral war for a country that didn’t accept them. They deserve their story to be told and I’m thrilled Spike Lee has done that.
Chadwick Boseman brings his all-star charisma to the role of the fallen squad leader who we see only in flashbacks. The group refers to him as the greatest soldier who has ever lived. The flashback scenes to the war are powerful and shot in a different ratio than the rest of the film. It’s shot to look like old Vietnam war footage that the American people were watching on their televisions at the time. It’s an incredibly effective touch to have the older vets look like their old selves in the flashbacks. They can only see themselves in their memory as they are now, but Chadwick Boseman’s character is still his younger self. Boseman is frozen in time and in their memory, as the way he was. The rest of the group has changed tremendously in appearance but still are the same on the inside. Spike mentioned he hated when directors cast other younger actors to play younger versions as they never look the same. Netflix wasn’t going to give him the money to de-age like The Irishman, but I think the way he did it works in his favor.
The best performance in the film comes from Delroy Lindo. He should seriously be nominated for an Academy Award with his truthfully poignant performance. His character is much like a Shakespearean tragedy, and Lindo portrays it with ferociousness and vulnerability. I won’t spoil anything, but there is much more to his character than anybody else.
Da 5 Bloods is a riveting look at the African American experience of Vietnam. You’re going to learn a lot about the nation’s history while watching since Spike loves to plug real-life footage into his films. You’ll feel like you’re going on a grand adventure going to find some buried treasure. Along the way you’ll be reminded of how well Spike blends so many genres into one and it’ll have you riveted the whole way through. With the rising Black Lives Matter protests and everything going on in America right now, this movie couldn’t have come out at a better time. With that said, go immediately to Netflix and watch Da 5 Bloods. It’ll speak to you and I’m sure you’re going to love its unpredictability.
Da 5 Bloods currently has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes
My rating: 90% (Great)
Photo Credit: imdb.com