15th Jun2020

‘Da 5 Bloods’ Review (Netflix)

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Mélanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Pääkkönen, Johnny Nguyen, Lam Nguyen, Jean Reno, Chadwick Boseman, Van Veronica Ngo | Written by Spike Lee, Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Kevin Willmott | Directed by Spike Lee

Powerful, beautiful, violent and emotional. Spike Lee has continued his great run by crafting a film that can be enjoyed as an exciting piece of cinema as well as delivering a complex look at the world.

I can’t remember the last time I watched a film that was so relevant and hit home so hard, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as relevant as Da 5 Bloods. When you think back to 1989 and what Spike Lee had to say about the current times in Do The Right Thing it can only make you sad, heartbroken and angry to think the same messages and problems are just as relevant today. It’s scary to think an artist such as Spike Lee may spend his entire career speaking about the injustice in the world today and with pieces of art like Da 5 Bloods Lee yet again delivers that message of injustice as a powerful, emotional punch in the gut that demands attention.

Da 5 Bloods tells the story of four African-American vets who return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen Squad Leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. The 5 Bloods of the film are Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), and their fallen squad leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman). We follow their story in both the past and the present, as we see them finding the gold in the past and them searching for it in the present. In the past the actors reprise the roles of their younger selves, and there is no Irishman-style CGI to make them appear younger. It’s the inter-cutting between the two time lines that pieces the film together as well as cutting between photos and clips of real life events. It’s a powerful technique and the choices made in the editing room by Spike Lee and his editor Adam Gough never take you out of the experience or let you lose emotional connection. Often when a film cuts to real news footage it’s easy to lose the audiences emotional connection to the characters, however we remember just how real all this feels and the film never drops the emotional connection, and yet at the same time delivers on the powerful statements it’s trying to put across. It’s filmmaking like this that Spike Lee does so well where so many others have failed.

A lot of the emotional connection comes in the form of powerful performance, each member of Da 5 Bloods is exceptional in their role, and Jonathan Majors gives a fabulous performance as one of their sons, who travels with the group to find the lost gold. Out of all theses performances though it’s Delroy Lindo as Paul, a Trump supporter who even wears a MAGA hat. It’s his performance that stands above the rest, it’s sad, intense, captivating and haunting, and one of the finest performances I’ve seen in recent years. If there is an awards season at the end of this year, Delroy Lindo should be the name inside every winning envelope.

With the emotion, the statements and the powerful performances it seems only right that Spike Lee can be found in the directors chair, it feels like a story only he could make and a message only his brilliant and original style could tell. What I’ve always loved about Lee other than his originality and fresh new ideas is his love for cinema and it’s been evident ever since his 1989 masterpiece, Do The Right Thing, in which he pays homage to Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter. Here, in Da 5 Bloods, Lee pays homage to films such as Apocalypse Now and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which the film not only has a direct quote from but feels like it’s linked in lineage, as if passed down from generation to generation and found its way into Lee’s film. It’s moments like this that let movie fans enjoy Spike Lee’s work on another level and if it’s just excitement you want then the film delivers in both tension and action set pieces.

Spike Lee has taken the Vietnam war film and added the black experience that has surprisingly never been seen before. After all, it was their sacrifice, their lives put on the line as many didn’t have the the recourses to avoid getting drafted, and when they were there they were sent straight to the front lines. Their lives were being oppressed back in their home country and yet they were sent to fight and die against an equally oppressed group of people and it’s here that Lee’s film hits hard. It introduces us to a history we have been sheltered from, and from American history that is written with the blood of black men, women and children, a history that needs to be taught and heard. Spike Lee has created one of his best ever films, while talking directly to the past and present of not only America but of the world, Da 5 Bloods is not only a great film but an important one, now more than ever.

***** 5/5

Da 5 Bloods is available on Netflix now.

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