Spike Lee is back again with an action-packed, disjointed extremely important hit after winning his first competitive Academy Award for BlackKkKlansman and after addressing the role of African American soldiers in the second world war in Miracle at St Anna. This time, Lee takes a different approach in exploring the black experience in Vietnam as Da 5 Bloods follows four African American veterans who reunite in search for their fallen comrade and the promise of buried treasure. It’s a narrative of the battle against humanity while confronting the immorality of the Vietnam War.
From the off, this film is set to be as brilliant as Lee’s previous with an all-star cast including Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters and Chadwick Boseman. Delroy Lindo, especially, gives one of the most brutally sad, destructive performances as he plays a man whose seething rage, political contradictions and complexities embody his character. The facial expressions and blinking when his character doesn’t agree with some political view is entertaining and extremely interesting to watch. In the end, Paul realises he is overwhelmed with greed and hate and its so incredibly captured with a forth wall breaking monologue, it’s astounding to watch.
As with any Spike Lee film, there is a political thread running throughout. Opening with historical footage of Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, this is a film that explores how we are corrupted and haunted by imperialism, whether we truly understand exactly how or why. Lee expertly explores the Blacks experience by using flashbacks to the war, placing the widescreen frames of the present into the newsreel format of the past. The past and present are brought together with innovative cinematography and historical speeches from Martin Luther King and other activists who fight for equality and justice. This movie points out that people of colour were forced to take part in a war by a country and a government that didn’t treat them with respect and considered them as second class citizens and Spike Lee is brilliant at giving you a physical reaction to that.
What’s equally interesting is that Lee uses the same actors both for the present and the past, without the hassle of de-aging or makeup. While this may be jarring or out of place for some, I found it quite beautiful as it really honed in on these characters inserting themselves into the past through their memories. Also the score is terrifyingly haunting, I loved it.
There are not many films about black people experience during the Vietnam war and I have to thank Spike Lee for this. Watching the end, especially, is so important, more so during the current BlackLivesMatter movement. This film could not have come at a better time. Also, it’s by one of the best black directors of our time, everyone MUST watch this. If there happens to be an award season this year and Spike Lee or Delroy Lindo get overlooked, something is seriously wrong.