Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Admittedly, it has taken me a long time to get around to watching this film but it has been one of my most anticipated for the year. As a huge Spike Lee fan, I am always excited to see what he brings out. After his brilliant 2018 offering Blackkklansman that finally won him a deserved competitive Oscar, the anticipation for Da 5 Bloods has been a repeat of much discussion for the upcoming awards season. The film follows four American veterans known as the “Bloods” who meet up in Vietnam to reflect on their time in the war and to search for their leader and the treasure they buried. Featuring a fantastic cast led by Delroy Lindo with support from the late great Chadwick Boseman.

As we have come to expect from Lee’s films, the direction and writing is top-notch. For Da 5 Bloods, Lee has collaborated with Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo and Kevin Willmott and I think usually four screenwriters can cause a bit of conflict in tone and dialogue but it works here. Da 5 Bloods is a two and a half epic filled with an array of detailed characters. Having multiple screenwriters actually enriches the quality of the writing and paired with Lee’s realist directorial approach, is pulled off brilliantly. Mixing the modern Vietnam with flashbacks as well as frequent clips from the news to draw parallels with the Vietnam War and the modern racial war in America. What makes Lee’s films so unique is his ability to combine multiple film mediums that feels as though you are watching a documentary at some points. Lee is undoubtedly a political filmmaker and this makes some viewers uncomfortable but it is an unapologetic point of view that I think contributes to a fearless and boundary-pushing approach to filmmaking itself.

As American veteran Paul, Delroy Lindo is phenomenal. Paul is clearly damaged from his experiences in the war. The more time he spends in Vietnam, the more aggressive and vulnerable he becomes. All of the men suffer from PTSD but in Paul’s case, this causes him to lash out violently. In one particular scene, a Vietnamese man tries to sell a chicken and this causes Paul to reach a boiling point, almost jumping to beat the man up when accused of killing his parents. The visit to Vietnam allows Paul to face his demons and confront the problems he has had in the subsequent years since Vietnam. His reluctance to talk about his experiences to a professional has resulted in the issues surfacing in such a way that he is unable to deal with his emotions. Netflix are campaigning for Lindo in the Leading categories for the upcoming awards season and I think he presents a very strong competition. It would be great to see such a challenging and developed role rewarded.

Chadwick Boseman’s performance as squad leader, Norman, is flawless. When onscreen, he commands the scene and acts the hell out of his character. It is clear that he is having fun in the role, maintaining the importance and dignity that the character represents. After gaining worldwide acclaim for his performance as the titular Black Panther, it’s brilliant to see Boseman in a film that is entirely different and demanding in a different way. Boseman’s performance is a snippet of what he could have continued to achieve before his untimely death earlier this year. I hope his performance is recognised in the Supporting categories with at least a nomination come award season. This role is a phenomenal addition to his extensive legacy and showcases his ability to adapt to genre pieces.

As with Blackkklansman, another great collaborator who Lee frequently works with is composer Terence Blanchard. Blanchard’s specialty is the trumpet and the strong brass sounds come through in this score, bringing the militia sound as a constant backdrop to the action. In addition, there are many songs fro. The 1970s included as well as classical pieces such as Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” which has become iconic in modern culture thanks to its inclusion in  the film Apocalypse Now, another film that looks at the Vietnam War. What Lee and Blanchard are doing by including such pieces are subverting the typical white-dominated war film and showing it from an African-American perspective.

Overall, Lee has knocked it out the park yet again with his fearless look into the African-American experience during the Vietnam war. Proving that he is still at the top of his game more than ever, Lee has made a film that again shows parallels with the mistreatment of African-Americans today with the mid-20th century. His ability to masterfully mix various mediums such as feature film, news clipping, cultural references in the music and performances that push the actors to their limits combine to make a film that seems as though it transcends the film medium and becomes art. A fantastic achievement for Spike Lee and I hope his efforts are rewarded come awards season.

What did you think of Da 5 Bloods? Let me know in the comments!

Da 5 Bloods is available to watch on Netflix now.

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