Four African American Vietnam veterans – Paul (Delroy Lindo), David (Jonathan Majors), Otis (Clarke Peters), and Eddie (Norm Lewis) – return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen squad leader and the promise of buried treasure. These heroes battle forces of humanity and nature while confronted by the lasting ravages of the immorality of the Vietnam War.
Spike Lee is one of the most influential voices in cinema and has been ever since his debut in 1986 with She’s Gotta Have It. Throughout the course of many decades, Lee has crafted numerous important and thematically rich films that always leave its viewer thinking and reflecting on their personal lives and the world around them.
None of this was done better than in his 1989 film Do the Right Thing in my personal opinion. That was a deeply moving and strikingly important movie about racial inequality, and in times like these, we need more of those movies. Movies that make you take a moment to pause and think about the racial inequality and mistreatment that’s going on everywhere right now and has been happening for far, far too long.
Gratefully, I can say that Spike Lee has made yet another excellent film that will perhaps go down as one of the best films of the entire year come December. Although it isn’t his finest hour yet, it most certainly is one of his most mature and timely films ever. Here, he touches upon themes such as race on the battlefield in ways that I have never seen done before.
Throughout the course of the film, we get to learn about our characters in riveting and emotionally charged ways. The lead characters here are some of the best that Lee has ever put on screen. At first, the character development and story as a whole did feel a little bit rocky and slow-paced. There really wasn’t a clear focus on what exactly the film wanted to be until about half an hour to forty-five minutes in. Seeing as how this is a film with a running time of one-hundred and fifty-five minutes, that is definitely going to put a lot of viewers off, and that’s understandable. But for those that are willing to wait it out for the second act, Da 5 Bloods picks up speed immensely and becomes a soulful, thought-provoking experience.
On an acting level, Da 5 Bloods is out of this world. With incredible actors such as Delroy Lindo and Jonathan Majors just to name a few leading this amazing cast, they bring an amazing level of emotion and vulnerability to their roles and sell every scene. Not once did I see the actors behind the role, I only saw the role. But if I had to pick the standout star here, it would have to be Lindo, who feels extremely raw and powerful in virtually every scene. One moment, in particular, involving Lindo left me speechless with tears beginning to form in my eyes. It would truly be a shame if he goes unrecognized this forthcoming awards season.
Something that probably won’t get any awards attention in this film is the editing style. Adam Gough did something admittedly clever by intercutting many sequences of our protagonists from when they were in the war many years ago, changing the aspect ratio and everything, to inform the viewer what year they are in. But the way this was done was just a little bit jarring and threw me off for a while.
But worry not. Da 5 Bloods is a strikingly powerful and timely war-drama about racial inequality in the battlefield and is one of Spike Lee’s most mature and powerful ventures.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, grisly images, and pervasive language
Directed by: Spike Lee
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: June 12, 2020
Running Time: 155 minutes