Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (2020) came out amid the heated worldwide debate and sweeping protests that followed the brutal and cold-blooded murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. While director Spike Lee has not planned for its release at such a crucial moment, he indicates in an interview with Trevor Noah in his “Daily Social Distancing Show” that “the way the film came out it has nothing to do with the timing, but there could not be a better time for this film because I truly think that a lot of what’s in the film is why people are marching all across this world chanting Black Lives Matter.”
Da 5 Bloods is yet but another outstanding classic of Spike Lee, which uses humour and earnestness, comedy and drama, terror and beauty to revisit and reexamine a gloomy episode in American history, the Vietnam War, while tying it perfectly to past and contemporary racial relations and policies in the U.S.
The story revolves around four Black Vietnam veterans (joined later by the son of one of them to become five), who go back to Vietnam decades after the end of the war in an attempt to reconnect and repatriate the remains of their friend and commander who died in combat. Yet, their trip has much more to it than that. Their reunion is triggered by a more exciting old secret: a gold-treasure that they had buried years ago in a field which turns out to be full of landmines. Their hunt becomes even more suspenseful upon meeting a group of landmine activists, who became also involved in the main plot.
The affectionate re-connection of the 5 bloods (brothers) soon turns into a travel back in time, which brings forth to the characters’ minds old bittersweet memories of the war. Delroy Lindo, playing the role of Paul, is the most complex and puzzling character (who happens also to be a Trump supporter). Paul suffers PTSD and is haunted by the ghost of his squad leader Stromin’ Norman (Chadwick Bosenam featured in flashback sequences). However, going back to the site of his trauma, he was able to release his repressed painful memories and is offered his cathartic moment in a powerful Shakespearean monologue. Paul’s son, David (Jonathan Majors) and his three other mates, Ottis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah whitlock, Jr.), each had his own share of the gripping trip.
Besides questioning one of the most troublesome historical narratives (Vietnam/American War), the movie lays bare the violent past of the U.S. and the persisting presence of racial discrimination against Black people. Footage of major Black leaders and figures who opposed the war (Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Mohammed Ali, Angela Davis, etc.) serves as a call to Black Americans to reject both colonialism and racism.
The movie can be read as a fierce allegory of the American Dream, a dream founded on greed, imperial desires, want of power, and the myth of American Exceptionalism. And director Spike Lee is committed to deconstructing the myth and countering America’s false narratives. He makes that clear in one of his interviews with Netflix about the movie, “It is my belief that we need a diversity of narratives because a lot of the narrative of these United States has been false narrative.”
Da 5 Bloods is successful on many levels: emotional story, powerful acting, superb music, and thought-provoking themes. It’s a must-watch! Another Outstanding Classic of Spike Lee.