Photo: Da 5 Bloods/Netflix
Spike Lee is a unique voice in Hollywood. There are no two ways about it. On the nose and unafraid to speak his mind, he does so through a visual medium that attracts and polarizes at the same time.
Da 5 Bloods is very much a Spike Lee production. If you love Spike, you’ll love this. If you’re not a fan of his style, this two hour and thirty-minute plus run time probably is the one to change that (though not much longer, BlacKkKlansman is where I’d send most in that regard).
Following four black-American veterans who fought in Vietnam, they embark to find the hidden treasure they buried there while abroad. Their leader who died in Vietnam is what keeps these brothers together at the beginning, but soon different perspectives threaten a would-be peaceful reunion.
DA 5 Bloods – Talented Group Brings Grounded Realism
Though the script can come off forced at times, the lead cast brings an emotional connection to me as a viewer. Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. play the four vets and shine with both chemistry and tension from the moment they come together. Chadwick Boseman may not have had a huge role, but man was it memorable. Boseman is one of my personal favorite actors and I loved every second he was on screen. This role was a very different tone in comparison to the others he’s taken on thus far and I totally believed he was an MLK and Malcolm X combo in one passionate leader that believes in everything he does.
Related article: The 3 Best Spike Lee Films From The Director’s Filmography
Peters is the consistent lead of the story as Otis, which allows Lindo to infuse a range of emotion and complexity in the PTSD vet and Trump supporter, Paul. Paul creates most of the problems, but the film doesn’t make him a villain either. But rather a man faced with emotional turmoil and suffering that’s as human as the rest of us. There is a reason many are giving Lindo Best Actor talk. Through every tear and outburst, Lindo has earned the right to be in the discussion for that award come Oscar time.
Jonathan Majors also shines as Paul’s son who has a near opposite political viewpoint which is just the tip of the iceberg of their complicated relationship. They have tension and humor alongside their three comrades Peters, Lewis, and Whitlock Jr., carrying the story all the way to the bitter-sweet end. The up and down nature of the story would have felt way to uneven if it weren’t for the performances of these leads. But they all pulled through and thus, creating a film that is isn’t just a politics, social issues, or a war film. It’s a story of four men that were kept together by a leader who gave his life for the convictions and causes he believed in.
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Two Hours and Thirty-Four Minutes? Doesn’t feel like it.
I love long movies…when I know exactly what I’m getting. More independent films are wildcards and are normally more enjoyable when shorter.
Da 5 Bloods did not lag one bit (again in large part to the central performances) and I was halfway through in a flash. The characters bring you in and you forget about its daunting runtime but there is plenty of style to go with the substance, humor, tension, and even some solid action.
Again, the script is often clunky feeling but Lee directs the film with “pizzazz.” Though I love me a good drama, the choice to add some colorful tones boosted the film’s watchability in every way, but I’ve seen some criticize these tone shifts. Yes, you can go from feeling like they’re all buddies to sudden death and emotional divides to pop culture dance scenes but the four performances make those sudden changes feel real and had Lee not brought this range of dynamics, the story would have been dull. And we all know Lee, he may be many things, but dull ain’t one of ‘em.
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Hey Kids, Here’s a History Lesson For Ya
Another part of the sudden tone shifts is due to the seemingly random pauses in the story to teach on blacks and their history in America. But it makes perfect sense to the story and the identity of these five characters (Boseman’s especially). Not only that but it’s actually really cool to learn things you don’t read in the generic history books.
It made me think of my brother who is a book of random facts that he will randomly add to a conversation, but in reality, it has everything to with the topic at hand. We all have that person in our lives. That’s what this movie does. It teaches you the information in a way that’s more entertaining than a straight documentary with tidbits on heroic men and women in America’s past. It’s an homage to the harsh times of American history. And though nothing in and of itself is sugar-coated, the colorful tone of the whole film adds a sense of pride and an informative outlook at the past for blacks in the US of A.
Though it certainly isn’t Spike Lee’s best film ever, Da 5 Bloods comes as a time when it may have been needed most. It shows many perspectives, gives insight to the past, and is a colorful yet also sobering story of four men who fought valiantly but were effected differently after Vietnam. It’s full of complexity within its characters and aesthetics, but that ambition from Lee makes the runtime worth the watch.
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Though it certainly isn’t Spike Lee’s best film ever, Da 5 Bloods comes as a time when it may have been needed most. It shows many perspectives, gives insight to the past, and is a colorful yet also sobering story of four men who fought valiantly but were effected differently after Vietnam. It’s full of complexity within its characters and aesthetics, but that ambition from Lee makes the runtime worth the watch. Though it certainly isn’t Spike Lee’s best film ever, Da 5 Bloods comes as a time when it may have been needed most. It shows many perspectives, gives insight to the past, and is a colorful yet also sobering story of four men who fought valiantly but were effected differently after Vietnam. It’s full of complexity within its characters and aesthetics, but that ambition from Lee makes the runtime worth the watch.
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