In 1970s Vietnam, a chopper carrying a shipment of gold is shot down. Years later, four survivors return to recover a fallen comrade's bones...and the gold.
If you're a fan of good films, you've no doubt seen at least one Spike Lee movie. While you might not agree with all of his politics, you have to admire his masterful ability to draw in the viewer. Da 5 Bloods is probably the most riveting tale I've watched in the last month, and possibly even the previous year. Lee does a beautiful job of painting the Vietnam conflict from the perspective of young black men forced to fight for a country that doesn't even respect their right to exist. Netflix, in a brilliant move on their part, decided to release the movie now, when the question of black lives has once again come to the forefront. Lee's film isn't preachy, but it is informative. And most importantly, it makes you think.
Spike Lee has never been a director to make vapid, shallow films. The questions that Da 5 Bloods asks people isn't limited to just one race. It's not a film that seeks to make its characters flawless heroes. They are flawed, but in their flaws, we see shadows of ourselves. The film opens with a quote by Muhammad Ali and closes with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It juxtaposes the civil rights struggles of the 60s against the world as we see it today. The protagonists are profound, with their own stories and considerations. All of these things are tied together with masterful storytelling and historical references that don't feel forced.
The story is plausible, although there are moments where it stretches your suspension of disbelief a bit. Four Vietnam vets return to the country that America had to flee in the 70s to recover the bones of their fallen comrade. Unbeknownst to all, they're also here to recover a stash of gold that they hid away on the same mission that got their colleague killed. One of the protagonists has a son who, wanting to connect with him more, came to Vietnam to follow them. Together, these five Bloods, four of them old, one of them the new generation, seek to recover the gold and retire in relative wealth. Things go wrong quickly as they hire a local Frenchman to help them move the gold, and he ends up double-crossing them. Their only resort is to take to the bushes and fight for their lives in Vietnam, one more time.
With a star like Black Panther's Chadwick Boseman, you'd expect him to be the most prominent member in the film. However, as Boseman's character, Stormin' Norman, died in the past, he's only present in flashbacks. Even so, Boseman presents his role as a leader of men, and one the rest of the crew would come back for. Norm Lewis (Eddie), Clarke Peters (Otis), and Johnathan Majors (David) make up three parts of the older crew, each with their own hang-ups from looming poverty to opioid addiction. Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Melvin) presents the perspective of the newer, softer generation. However, the show is all but stolen by Delroy Lindo's Paul, who's slowly coming unhinged ever since they left Vietnam. The film does an excellent job of explaining his madness and even gives us some closure before the movie ends. Even so, the casting choice was a stroke of mastery on behalf of the director.
A lot of the initial two-thirds of the film deals with setup and exposition. However, despite this, the film doesn't lag all that much. With snippets of history flying at you left and right, and deep, relatable characters, even the exposition seems like you're in the middle of something important. The emotional bonds between the characters feel natural. Even though these guys haven't seen each other for years, their camaraderie is evident from the minute they walk into the hotel in the opening scene. The final third of the film, where things start getting hairy for our protagonists, is done tastefully, with the final firefight being something to behold.
Spike Lee's generous use of flashbacks to inform us is also a fantastic tool, combined with his penchant for teaching the viewer about the past. As typical with his movies, the information is vital to telling the story. Lee presents history from the perspective of his characters. His use of events, both current and past, helps to frame the conflict in the 70s. It even gives us perspective on the things happening today around us. Few films can do that, and even fewer can do it so well that one doesn't feel like it's a chore to hear about the past.
It's not often that I see a movie that's as compelling, passionate, and knowledgeable about its source material as this one has been. It's a film that some people won't like, simply because of the uncomfortable truths it presents. Spike Lee has had a history of being a bit preachy with his politics, but he doesn't do it overbearingly in this case. The story informs the viewer, primarily. We experience a different side of history, one that isn't well-represented in films at all. At the end of it, we get a movie that firmly marries politics along with the human spirit. It's a must-see for anyone who likes deep, introspective cinema. Those who aren't a fan of either history or politics should give this one a hard pass.Disclaimer : The views expressed in this article belong to the writer and are not necessarily shared by trinikid.com