SYNOPSIS: From Academy Award® Winner Spike Lee comes a New Joint: the story of four African-American Vets — Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) — who return to Vietnam. Searching for the remains of their fallen Squad Leader (Chadwick Boseman) and the promise of buried treasure, our heroes, joined by Paul’s concerned son (Jonathan Majors), battle forces of Man and Nature — while confronted by the lasting ravages of The Immorality of The Vietnam War.
From the very start of the film Da 5 Bloods, the tone is set with a clip of Muhammad Ali’s disagreement with the Vietnam war. Issues of racism, selective patriotism, poverty, discrimination, greed, and mental health awareness were covered throughout this film – and are pretty much a sign of the times. The film even had its moments making fun of Donald Trump and how the world mocks his leadership. There were times I felt reflective, upset, and disappointed, but overall the film was one of the better high profile films I’ve seen.
I always love when Spike Lee puts history into his films, some things I have to google to make sure there is accuracy, and sometimes it’s just comforting knowing he gives a damn about our history and Black culture. I was highly impressed with the story of Milton J. Olive III, the young soldier who was awarded the medal of honor after sacrificing himself covering a bomb to save his fellow soldiers. Spike will later pay homage to this in the film. He also mentions the story of Crispus Attacks and his sacrifice for injustice, which also serves as motivation for them to get gold years later.
“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people?” – Muhammad Al
The appearance Hanoi Hannah, a Vietnamese radio personality who was most known for her broadcasting during the Vietnam war, was an interesting segment. The five soldiers listened to her speak via radio about the assassination of Martin Luther King and racially driven crimes that really had me connect with the characters. It was as if she was saying while you are over here killing people of color, the rights you claim to fight for are being stripped and Black people are being killed in the very same country you are fighting for.
I was intrigued by the French character’s interaction with the lead characters and the discussion of the French involvement with America during the war. It just made me think of how Americans perceive war and our reasons for war.
Da Cause *Spoiler Alert*
The MacGuffin of the film, the gold, was definitely a reward the soldiers deserved. Just like many Black people feel today after the blood spilled, lives lost, ideas stolen, land stolen, etc. They don’t get to enjoy the riches of a thriving economy? Damn right they made a smart call to return for that fortune. To me, it was a way they were fighting to receive their overdue reparations.
By the end of the film, it was compelling to see how it compares to what we are all experiencing right now – the importance of family and other people. I am not going to lie, during the parts where Chadwick Boseman’s character was talking about giving the money back to the people I thought, “Look at Black Panther over here taking some of the Killmonger beliefs!”
It was even cool seeing how the #BlackLivesMatter organization received some the money to help their cause…much like they are doing now after the lost lives of innocent Black people.
The relationship between Paul (Delroy Lino) and David (Jonathan Majors) I found intriguing because of the exploration of mental health and display of masculinity. Although I did want a slightly better ending to the characters, it was still good. Paul suffered severely from mental issues and internal struggles, which is later discovered. I still think it’s funny they had him supporting Trump.
Eddie (Clark Peters) and Tien was another interesting relationship, having an interracial relationship and child during the 1960s in Vietnam. Talk about a challenging time and tough situation? It was a twist I did not expect.
Spike Lee always represents Blackness in his films, it’s the little things that other executives, writers, and directors don’t show. Take for instance the Moorehouse paraphernalia the character David wears or the mention of Black Lives Matter, these are things Black people need to see. How things are organic, not token, not stereotypical but the effortless display of Black culture. Hollywood should do a better job with all representations, otherwise, it diminishes the integrity of the film.
I found the use of video clips from historical events and people to be satisfying. It really gave me a reason to have a connection to the characters and to feel their pain.
Da 5 Bloods will be released June 12th on Netflix and is definitely worth watching. It does have a lot of gore during the gunfights but that is all overshadowed by the storytelling, character relationships, and conflicts within the film. Spike Lee has definitely provided the viewers with a film we will be talking about for the upcoming months.
Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Chadwick Boseman
DA 5 BLOODS releases globally on Netflix JUNE 12