Watching Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods – like his devilishly funny previous feature BlacKkKlansman – one can’t often say whether it was a serious political film masquerading as a kinetic entertainer, or the other way round. But, either way, there’s no denying its chutzpah. Equal parts unfettered war film, pointed political protest, messy morality play, badass adventure tale and bittersweet buddy movie, it didn’t shy away from bristling commentary, meditation and indignation on entrenched racialism, while also being wildly entertaining. It begins with 5 middle-aged Vietnam War vets – level-headed Otis (Clarke Peters), deeply troubled Paul (Delroy Lindo), easy-going Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and conscientious Eddie (Norm Lewis) – reuniting at Ho Chi Minh City decades after the odious war, in order to locate a treasure they – serving under their enormously revered squad leader Norm (Chadwick Boseman), who was killed in action – had chanced upon during a particularly bloody mission. Add to this motley group Paul’s estranged son (Jonathan Majors), a spunky French lady (Mélanie Thierry) who’s into clearing unexploded landmines, a former Vietnamese prostitute who Otis had an affair with during his GI days, a double-faced mercenary (Jean Reno) et al, and it’s quite clear that their tryst is bound to be as volatile and violent as the last time they were here. The gradually unfolding plot – a few ham-handed moments aside – was bolstered by tense set-pieces, caustic ironies – around still prevalent scars among Viet Cong descendants, references to American braggadocio, counter-propaganda by silken-voiced Hanoi Hannah (Veronica Ngo), etc. – and an especially gripping performance by Lindo. The proceedings were rousingly juxtaposed with archival footage highlighting Black history from slavery and their disproportionate conscription in wars to the Civil Rights and BLM movements.
Director: Spike Lee
Genre: War Drama/Buddy Film/Adventure Film