‘Da 5 Bloods’: A War That Wasn’t Theirs
A review of Spike Lee's latest
Spike Lee’s newest feature is an absolute gut-punch. I don’t think any introduction besides that would do Da 5 Bloods justice. Lee’s latest follows four Vietnam veterans, jovial Eddie (Norm Lewis), an often-drunk Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), measured and thoughtful Otis (Clarke Peters), and the wild card Paul (Delroy Lindo). The group travels back to Vietnam to recover the remains of their Bloods squad leader, Norm (Chadwick Boseman), who was killed in action, and also to recover a large fortune of US gold they buried when they were in the war.
The plot goes on from there, but I haven’t enjoyed an action movie this much since I watched Split. The twists and turns that Lee plants in this heist make for not only an engaging caper, but a much-needed commentary on Black Vietnam veterans and how they fit into the political landscape of the USA.
A Necessary Story
The last thing I want to do is spoil the film, so I won’t. The plot outline I’ve given is pretty much all you need to know going into it, but I will give you, dear reader, a couple more points. The four veterans are almost immediately joined by Paul’s son, David, (Jonathan Majors), a teacher who graduated from Morehouse. Majors adds such an element to this film of the relationship between Paul and the rest of the cast, so his inclusion is paramount to the success of the film.
Of course, to smuggle something to the tune of $7 million of gold back into the United States, the Bloods have to involve Tiên (Lê Y Lan), Otis’ old flame, and a Frenchman named Desroche (Jean Reno). Desroche promises he will get the money to various off-shore accounts that the Bloods will be free to draw from, which, is up for debate throughout the entire film. As a quick sidenote, when I first saw Desroche and he spoke, I literally wrote “This is a terrible French accent,” however, Jean Reno is of course a French actor. I wanted to throw that in to remind everyone that I am not an authority on anything. Particularly the authenticity of French accents.
Regardless, the plot is an absolute rollercoaster. It’s pretty clear that we are in for such a ride when the Bloods, in theory, reach their objective about halfway through the film. Lee sprinkles in some great little subplots and features that really build the world around the Bloods, and help to contextualize a lot of their behavior. Lee also puts in a bunch of videos and stills of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, the Kent State Massacre, the Fall of Saigon, among other notable figures and events from the time of the Vietnam War. These also help to contextualize the film, and while some of it is a bit on the nose, Lee employs this strategy in a lot of his films, and I always think it’s an asset to his storytelling.
Particularly, it helps to show how the Bloods have suffered at the hands of the US government. They fought in the Vietnam War for a country that didn’t think they deserved, really, anything. As Tiên says, the white GIs taught the Vietnamese the N-word to refer to their Black compatriots. The Bloods fought in a war they didn’t want to, and committed acts they didn’t want to commit, all for a country and a society that had no interest in them beyond use as cannon fodder.
It’s a powerful indictment of America, and I have to applaud its timely release. Obviously, Spike Lee couldn’t have predicted the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oluwatoyin Salau, Tete Gulley, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many others who have been victimized by the American paramilitary state, but I know that Lee has been advocating for this revolution we are in for a long time, and this film acts as another marker to make sense of it for the ignorant among us, myself included. It’s really a necessary film to watch in 2020.
READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW ON OUR WEBSITE: https://moviebabble.com/2020/06/19/da-5-bloods-a-war-that-wasnt-theirs/