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. Filled with social commentary, heated racial debates and interesting new info on many unsung heroes of the black community, it’s another Spike Lee film which is entertaining but also informative.
This movie could not have been released at a better time. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was arrested on a charge of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, handcuffed him face down in the street and pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes during the arrest. After Floyd’s death, protests were held globally against the use of excessive force by police officers against black people and the lack of police accountability. There is a scene late on in Spike Lee’s latest which features a protest swirling around the Black Lives Matter movement, fitting with current world events and Lee has confirmed that the scene was not added on last minute for relevance sake.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It’s moving, interesting and at times emotional, with the writing elevated by strong performances from all involved. Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman shines in the flashback scenes as Captain ‘Stormin’ Norman but the star of the show is Delroy Lindo as Paul. Whilst all four have struggled to adapt to life after the war, Vietnam certainly effected Paul the most. He is a damaged character and Lindo perfects the role, giving one of the most powerful performances of 2020 so far.
This is also the most action-packed film Spike Lee has possibly ever made. From the stunning flashback sequences of the war to the explosive finale, this is a movie packed with great and unexpectedly violent sequences. Lee isn’t a proven action director and it does show at times, but the war scenes in particular are epic and feel totally real. Lee doesn’t recast the four leads with younger actors for these war scenes, which at first felt misjudged but in a world of de-aging CGI I actually loved this approach. Lee transports the audience and characters alike back to the 60’s and it feels totally authentic, especially as the movie is about memories and how the past affects us later in life
This is a movie which isn’t going to be for everyone and is sure to divide opinion. For starters, it clocks in at a meaty 2 and a half hours and you can certainly feel it. The story could’ve easily been condensed and shortened, especially early on when they’re developing the four leads. It’s a film with a lot to say about the world and not everyone will feel the same way they do, which is certainly apparent with the mixed response to the worldwide protests which have recently taken place.
This is not better than Lee’s previous film, the magnificent BlacKkKlansman, but it’s still one of the stronger and more accessible films in his filmography. With still no word on the re-openings of cinema, this is the strongest 2020 release I’ve seen since the lockdown period began and one of the better films of the year so far.
Verdict: Despite an overlong run time, this is a beautiful, moving and powerful war drama and the timing could not have been better.
Best Moment: Land mine troubles
Da 5 Bloods is now streaming on Netflix.