Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee’s most impressive film since the highly acclaimed BlacKkKlansman (2018), and probably his most ambitious film in terms of content. The story follows 5 Black American Vietnam war vets who return to present-day Vietnam for the first time since the war. The ensemble cast is solid — Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Paul (Delroy Lindo).
Delroy Lindo’s character is at the center of the story. He is the most unlikeable character here — he is a MAGA hat-wearing — Trump supporter who stands against everything progressive social causes stand for today. My impression is that Paul’s character is, in a way, a direct critique of Black Americans and minorities who support or have supported Trump.
Here we have a character who lived through the civil rights movement and now, as an older person, has turned his back on the movement’s ideals. It seems that a combination of PTSD, personal tragedy, and a poor mental state have contributed to Paul’s cognitive decline. Delroy Lindo’s performance is outstanding, an early favorite for award season.
Da 5 Bloods are returning to Vietnam for the first time since the war. They are on a quest to find and recover the remains of their squad leader Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Bossman), who was killed during combat, and the surviving Bloods plan to bring him back home. Stormin’ Norman was not only their squad leader but also their spiritual leader, and in a sense, he commanded a father figure type of influence on the Bloods. They even refer to him as “our Malcolm and our Martin.”
They are also attempting to retrieve Gold bars buried somewhere in the jungle. The gold bars belonged to the US government but were lost in the jungle after the cargo plane carrying them went down. Da 5 Bloods buried the gold intending to return at a later time and retrieve it.
There is this reparations aspect to Stormin’ Normans’ plans with what to do with the gold. He wanted to give all the gold to the Black people of the United States. The people who had been historically mistreated and forced to send young Black men to fight this unjust and unpopular war for the United States.
While in the middle of the Vietnamese Jungle-warzone, we observed Da 5 Bloods reaction to the MLK assassination news —That was an important scene that added more context to the characters.
There are layers and layers of messages sprinkled throughout this film…. like the French characters representing, in a way, the dark history of France in Vietnam and how the French had fought and lost a war there before the American war. The French character Hedy (Melanie Thierry) came from an affluential French family who made a fortune building landmines in Vietnam, directly benefiting from the Vietnamese people’s suffering.
There are landmines still scattered throughout the jungle — Hedy now runs an NGO whose mission is to locate and get rid of all the landmines left all over Vietnam — in a way, it feels like she is attempting to undo her family’s past and the sins of her country.
The Vietnamese characters are portrayed respectfully, and their views of the American war are expressed in a more direct and personal manner, not often seen in Hollywood productions.
There are excellent technical aspects that I found impressive, like the decision to have the main characters, who are actually older men in their 60s, play younger versions of themselves in flashbacks without de-aging them or CGI; it was a courageous and remarkable decision. The action sequences and the war shots were all well-executed—there are hints of Apocalypse Now in some key scenes.
This film provides a unique view of the African American experience during the Vietnam war within the context of the civil rights era; A period in history that remains very much relevant today. Da 5 Bloods is, without a doubt, an essential film to watch.
Four out of Five Popcorn bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿
DA 5 BLOODS (2020). Streaming on Netflix