As a director, Spike Lee has never shied away from confronting topics of race, injustice, and politics head-on.
After years of perfecting a balance between entertainment and gospel, Lee has somehow found that sweet spot. It was demonstrated in the Oscar-Nominated Blackkklansman, and here it is pushed further with Da 5 Bloods.
Even though Lee himself has always been an activist through his art, one cannot help but be amazed at how timely his cinematic discussions have been lately.
In Da 5 Bloods, Lee manages to explore America’s sins in innovative ways with extremely entertaining characters. But is it preachy to a fault or exactly what America needs right now?
Da 5 Bloods review: Is the Netflix movie worth watching or not?
Da 5 Bloods centers around four soldiers who return to Vietnam years after their emotional tours in the war-torn country.
Their motivation is to bring back one of their fallen comrades (or “Bloods” as they call themselves) to retrieve his buried remains and bring them back to his family.
On top of this, the soldier named Stormin’ Norman’s (Chadwick Boseman) remains are buried next to millions of dollars worth of gold.
Throughout the film, Lee explores how these Bloods have been jaded in various ways throughout the years. Some of them have money problems, some have a piece of themselves they left behind in Vietnam, one soldier is a drug addict, and one of them has untreated PTSD.
There is one thing these men have in common. Paul, Otis, Melvin, and Eddie feel like they fought for a country that never valued their rights in the first place.
As they seek out their treasure, the journey that unfolds is an incredible picture of four men trying to cope with their history as black soldiers in a war no one wanted.
The character relationships absolutely make the film. Once the film begins, Lee throws us into their lives without further explanation. They feel like they exist before the viewers even see them.
Their chemistry is infectious, as well as heartbreaking.
All the actors bring their best work to the table, especially Isiah Whitlock, who might become more prominent in the movie industry in lead roles thanks to Lee giving him a great part to play.
However, the conversation that will take place over the next year leading up to the Oscars will revolve around Delroy Lindo (Ransom, The Devil’s Advocate) as Paul.
His performance rips and shreds through this movie. Lindo’s role as Paul is the most bitter of them all because of his pain and regret from his time as a soldier.
He’s also a Trump supporter and wears a backward MAGA hat throughout the film. And because of the bitterness that he felt, as a soldier, the viewer instantly understands why he would choose to support such a controversial figure.
There are scenes in this film that are devastatingly authentic when depicting the horrific toll of PTSD. Lindo more than rises to the occasion when showing the terrible realities of a life with PTSD, especially untreated.
Of course, given the political climate, some of the topics are going to have people on fences at times.
It does not shy away from current issues of the moment, but that’s expected with a Spike Lee film. One can argue that with the character of Paul, Lee is trying to provide a surrogate for those on a different side of the aisle to have these discussions about how people of color were treated during the war and after.
As a writing strategy, it’s a smooth concept for getting people in the conversation, who otherwise would not participate.
Another tool that Lee infuses in Da 5 Bloods is little easter eggs of history within the dialogue.
During conversations, the soldiers dive into morsels of military history involving people of color that feel seamless and serve as a brief history lesson — and he does so with transitions in aspect ratio to throw the viewer into the past.
Most directors do not have the skills to find the balance, but somehow, in Da 5 Bloods, it does not make the film come to a halt. It’s all part of the greater narrative because it’s the character’s history too.
One can argue the film does get preachy, but just like Blackkklansman, Lee manages to dance with tension, comedy, and history all in one.
Once this film turns a corner, it becomes magnificently tense as well as riveting. We spend so much time laughing as well as crying with these men that once stakes are set in place, one will often forget to breathe.
In some ways, Spike Lee pushes his ambitions while capitalizing on what worked with his previous film. And it might even be a better movie because it’s entirely original and not based on any novel or real-life story.
Between the performances, story, and direction, Da 5 Bloods is a stellar film about how the fight is never over for soldiers.
Regardless of where one falls on the divided sections of the country, that’s something anyone with a military background in warfare understands.
Da 5 Bloods is now streaming on Netflix.
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