Film review: “Da 5 Bloods” is top-tier Spike Lee

At the beginning of summer, when racial tensions were at a high once again, audiences across the world received a movie experience that provided a similar topic of interest.

“Da 5 Bloods,” released on Netflix on June 12, is the latest film directed by Spike Lee. The film follows a group of black Vietnam War veterans returning to the country nearly 50 years later, looking to unearth gold they buried while serving. In addition to the treasure they reason is rightfully theirs, they also hope to find the remains of “Stormin’” Norman (played by Chadwick Boseman in his last film released before his death), their squad leader who died in battle.

Adapted from an earlier script revolving more around racial tensions around black and white soldiers, Lee and Kevin Willmott (who won Best Adapted Screenplay for “BlackKkKlansman” with two other screenwriters) heavily reworked the story to feature four black vets (played by Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), and accentuates the irony of black soldiers serving a country that never treated them with respect.

Lee has directed over 20 films across a variety of genres, and “Da 5 Bloods” proves that a war movie is not out of his reach. The colorful photography and intense action sequences aren’t anything inventive, but the story of the aging veterans battling internal and external enemies is engaging. 

Lindo delivers a standout performance as Paul, the quick-tempered leader of the troupe. His passionate relationship with his son (played by Jonathan Majors) and unease of being back in Vietnam takes the film to new heights. This marks Lindo’s fourth collaboration with Lee, and may be a contender for an Oscar nomination. As all of the soldiers begin to question each others’ motives, Paul’s open mistrust of his surroundings leads the audience on a journey through the stories of men looking to find closure. One scene involving a pair of landmines highlights the extreme mood shifts Lindo portrayed fantastically.

“Da 5 Bloods” clocks in at just over 2 1/2 hours long, but does not feel like it runs longer than it needs to. In fact, there is very little repetition of the same theme throughout. Lee and Willmott incorporated many concepts into the plot – PTSD, paternal bond, greed, guilt, masculinity – creating a realistically complex agitation among the characters.

Although his performance is brief, Boseman nails his performance as “Stormin’” Norman, who acts as a glue to the past and the present. In an interview with The Atlantic, Lee expressed why Boseman was cast as the enlightened soldier killed in action:

“This character is heroic; he’s a superhero. Who do we cast? We cast Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and we cast T’Challa. Chad is a superhero!”

“Da 5 Bloods” is another top-tier Spike Lee film, and its ever-present message is sure to resonate with audiences outside of their house.

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