A Spike Lee Joint
Prolific and provocative filmmaker Spike Lee returns with what can be considered his best work in years. If you’re familiar with the Brooklyn native’s critically acclaimed works such as Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, She’s Gotta Have It then you’ll be acutely aware of his influence and his profound ability to capture the nuances of the African-American experience, however with Da 5 Blood he gives us something totally different yet familiar all the same.
The story revolves around four African-American veterans, Paul (Delroy Lindo), Eddie (Norm Lewis), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr) and Otis (Clarke Peters) who return to Vietnam to recover the remains of their fallen comrade, Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman) and uncover the treasure he’d hidden amidst the war.
The film opens with a Muhammad Ali montage where we hear his well documented antipathy to the Vietnam war. It’s a fitting introduction to what is a pull-no-punches journey into America’s bloody, past transgressions and the fractured psyches of the brave men that fought in The American War. Things develop quickly as the quartet arrive back in present day Vietnam where they have been authorised to exhume the remains of Stormin’ Norman however they have to move delicately so as not to raise suspicion of their treasure hunt. This means they will need the help of several outside forces in order to safely recover and extract the treasure including the help of local guide, Vinh; unaware to the riches he escorts them to the area of jungle believed to contain the gold bullion. The Bloods also recruit a French contact who will ensure the quiet extraction of the gold out of Vietnam and back to America, all for a modest cut. What they didn’t account for is Paul’s son, David (Jonathan Majors) showing up to claim a piece of the pie; his inclusion serves as an insight into the strained, tense relationship with his father and also David’s shame for him. Inevitably, things go sideways for the pack as they wrestle with conflicting personalities while battling the harsh environment and the even harsher Paul, who’s paranoid delusions start to take hold. Things ramp up with devastating effect as the group deteriorates both physically and mentally, testing the foundations of their friendship as greed and fatigue set in.
On the surface Da 5 Bloods is a slick heist movie but don’t underestimate Spike Lee’s ability to layer potent and relevant themes that intertwine provocative social commentary with the injustices of war and America’s troubled history. Da 5 Bloods features fantastic turns from it’s lead actors with Delroy Lindo delivering a powerful stand out performance that serves as one of his best throughout his 40 year plus career in film. The film is ambitious and has a lot to say in it’s 154 minute run time which feels a tad over stretched but its definitely a journey worth making.
Da 5 Bloods is streaming now on Netflix. You can watch the trailer here: