Directed By : Spike Lee
Written By : Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Kevin Willmott, & Spike Lee
Starring : Delroy Lindo, Johnathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Chadwick Boseman, & Jean Reno.
Spike Lee returns with another joint after nagging an Oscar for 2018’s BlacKKKlansman. This time he’s back with a war drama featuring a story about 4 Vietnam veterans returning to vietnam to retrieve their fallen comrade’s remains…(oh, and a big fat stash of gold as well)
The film takes place in modern-day Ho Chi Minh, which is shot beautifully and captures the beauty, and the atmosphere of Vietnam – which you don’t commonly encounter in most hollywood films. (Although, it really needed more scooters). The story is also aptly structured, each period is represented in different aspect ratios, a 1.33:1 for the scenes that took place during the vietnam war, 2.39:1 for the scenes in Ho-Chi-Minh city, and 16:9 for the present-day jungle.
Juggling with multiple aspect ratios can oftentimes result in a mess, but cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel and editor Adam Gough did such a great job that these aspect ratios become a character for their respective scenes.
Lee is known for his prolific and bold style of storytelling, he says what he wants to say – and he says it without flinching. Da 5 Bloods is no exception – here we get themes about the horrors of war, vignettes of gruesome real life events sprinkled throughout the movie that warrants some heavy trigger warnings, and obviously some story beats that refer to our political climate today. (Hint: Jean Reno running around with a pistol, wearing all-white attire, and a MAGA hat – accompanied by Vietnamese soldiers)
But as per-usual, Lee goes much further than most filmmakers when tackling these themes. Delroy Lindo, who very much gave the best performance in the film portrays a tortured veteran from PTSD – but the film highlights that while PTSD is something that unfortunately most veterans struggle with – black veterans have it even harder, because not only they wrestle with their time in the war, but the fact that they still have to deal with the discrimination and racism back home, despite laying their life for their country.
The chemistry between the main cast is the beating heart of the film, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr, and Delroy Lindo were a thrill to watch on screen, with Lindo being a standout. There’s a scene with Lindo where he has to deal with his past demons, and come to terms with the mistakes he made in the war, which was not only beautiful but it eloquently describes what the film is all about; embracing the past to move forward.
That theme speaks volumes, and can be applied to multiple angles whether that’s the blunder of the US government with the vietnam war, and how we must learn from it. Delroy Lindo’s character arch, the french activist in the film who runs an organization that sweeps mines – making up for her parents profiting off the suffering of the vietnamese people, or how the gold that was meant to benefit the characters personally ended up being donated to Black Lives Matter – to benefit future generations of African Americans.
Da 5 Bloods is one Spike’s best joints. Soulful, gut-wrenching , and couldn’t arrive at more timely manner.