Spike Lee returns, fresh off winning an Academy Award for co-writing the brilliant, quirky BlackKKKlansman, brings us Da 5 Bloods. Lee like in most of his films address the role of African Americans in the pulse of modern America, this hasn’t changed. His latest, stranger-than-fiction tale involves 4 Vietnam Veterans in search of their lost comrade – and some gold booty.
Boasting an all-star cast including Delory Lindo (The Good Fight), Clarke Peters (The Wire), and Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), we are joined by the Vietnam vets who have returned to the country in which they fought the ‘American War’. There purpose officially is to find the remains of their squad leader “Stormin Norman” (Boseman), who throughout the film is depicted as both warrior and mentor to his squad or more powerfully depicted as “our Malcolm and our Martin”.
Amongst the flashbacks, historical footage and political threads Delory Lindo’s performance is mesmerising and is surely a career best. Lindo plays Paul, a conservative, who is a supporter of President Trump yet most importantly suffers from PTSD, yet throughout the film, it becomes impossible not to notice the changes his character undergoes whilst reliving the trauma of the war. Lee gets excellent performances out of all his cast, who is unafraid of coaxing out moments of love and affection for the expected macho- like persona of his Bloods.
What Lee’s movie does best is to highlight the stories of black soldiers in Vietnam that are largely erased from American cinema and history. It offers a raw desire to learn more and educate upon the matter, this is presented greatly in a scene where Lee erects a flashback to the Vietnam War showing a radio broadcast from Hanoi Hannah (Veronica Ngo) delivering the news of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. Speaking directly to the Black troops, she tells them they “are only 11 percent of the U.S. population, but among U.S. troops in Vietnam you are 32 percent.” She asks, “Black GI, is it fair to serve more than the white Americans who sent you here?” the scene with Hannah’s broadcast provides a clear depiction of the real racial tension among black and white troops during the war. Her scene offers a perspective of the war which is missed in American culture and history books alike.
The cinematography of Da 5 Bloods is also a work of art. To distinguish flashbacks from the present day Lee uses 16mm footage to squeeze the widescreen frames into a newsreel format of the past. While other Netflix productions such as The Irishman use special effects to digitally de -age its cast, Da 5 Bloods simply uses its ageing stars along the youthful Chadwick Boseman in flashback scenes. The soundtrack to cannot go without praise especially to those who champion Soul who wont be disappointed. Amongst the rich score Da 5 Bloods is mainly drawn from Marvin Gaye’s, 1971 album Whats Going On. Lee uses the record and lyrics of Gaye’s masterpiece to tie in the past and present together.
Whilst Lee uses the film as a platform to increase Black awareness, mental health, and his anti-war rhetoric it becomes blatant in observation the film explores how the state is the true enemy. As quoted in the opening scene of the film in which Muhammad Ali states ‘They- the Vietnamese- “didnt rob me of my nationality” asks us the question – How does one restore national faith when their own country is the usurper of oppression.
Da 5 Bloods, is a reminder that History is Power. For without knowledge of History, there is no understanding of contemporary global and local struggle – to those searching for equal rights, suffering from Mental Health and to those who seek safety in their own country.
Image Credit: TheMovieDB