June 11, 2020

SCREEN | Spike Lee Bleeds for Gold – 'Da 5 Bloods'

"War is about money. Money is about war."
Chadwick Boseman Spike Lee | Da 5 Bloods Netflix
40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks
African-American auteur Spike Lee tells the Black military experience of the "American War" in Vietnam through his unmistakably aggressively creative lens for his latest film. Set in both the past and present, the extraordinary Da 5 Bloods spans decades narratively while being firmly planted in today's political moment in time.

Co-starring Chadwick Boseman as the departed squad commander of the titular American army unit during the Vietnam War, his surviving veteran counterparts played by Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (four of the five "Bloods" who portray the same characters fifty years apart) return to Saigon under the current presidential administration to revisit unfinished business in the form of lost buried treasure as old men decades later.

Initially scripted by Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, and rewritten by Lee and his frequent collaborator Kevin Willmott to follow Black characters inside of white ones, the film's blend of archival footage, period war recreation, and a contemporary jungle heist adventure all make the story more stylishly historical yet simultaneously timely.

Delroy Lindo Clarke Peters Norm Lewis Isiah Whitlock Jr. Jonathan Majors Spike Lee | Da 5 Bloods Netflix

Unlike no other, Lee deconstructs the complexities of Blackness through history including the usual lack of representation in war movies and their unrecognized service or sacrifice. Boseman's Stormin' Norman is framed as a mythic figure leading his men by spitting thoughtful rhetoric (shades of Muhammed Ali, who opens the film).

The five aging but charismatic Black actors jive together well in the present while Jonathan Majors as Lindo's grown son joins the quartet further riffing on the skewed sense of age and time in Lee's narrative of remembered wartime trauma.

The film repurposes bitter historical ghosts of colonialism and imperialism into its overly ambitious story intersecting it with race relations. A vivacious Veronica Ngo plays the real-life Hanoi Hannah radio personality spouting Vietnamese propaganda to Black U.S. troops over the airwaves.

Lee mixes his iconoclastic contemporary style with classical war movie flourishes for a fleeting memory of a historical film. Da 5 Bloods is a deeply American tale of remembering and combat weariness. It's a sweeping film that firmly roots itself in Blackness here and aboard.

Da 5 Bloods is available to stream on Netflix.

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