To be honest, this movie couldn’t arrive at a more appropriate time! Now that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement rages on across the world following the vicious murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, militant director Spike Lee unveiled his first-ever Netflix movie with a golden cast of African American actors: the war drama Da 5 Bloods. Although this movie is not about racism, it still remains the big elephant in the room all along, as we see our protagonists, four war veterans, return to Vietnam and discuss their individual perceptions on race and equality in this life-changing journey. In many ways, this film is the kind of entertainment we needed to understand what fuels people in very dangerous and threatening situations (like today).
Following the excellent BlackKklansman (2018), which I now consider a modern classic, this is another great effort by Spike Lee that totally deserves your attention in this era of extreme binge-watching and Netflix scrolling.
In 2020, more than 50 years after the events of the Vietnam war, four African American friends and veterans (Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) join forces and come back together in Hanoi to recover something they lost when the war was raging in the jungle. In their last fight, one of the members of the pack and their spiritual guru, Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman, aka Black Panther) was killed in action, and a pile of CIA gold went missing. Together, they formed the ‘Bloods’, a young clan of American freedom fighters making their way into Vietnam…and now they’re back to bring back the remains of their fallen brother and maybe recover the gold. Now in their seventies, these guys changed since they last saw each other and some have very extreme political opinions and ambitions (one of them is even a Trump supporter and proudly wears the red MAGA cap). This will be a physical, spiritual and social journey for each one of them, as the mission goes wrong quickly when other militias and third parties have their eyes on the lost gold as well. This is a crazy descent into madness, friendship and fatherhood in the high degree heat of the jungle of Vietnam.
I won’t deny it, I’m a war movie junkie; some of my absolute favourites are movies that cover the Vietnam war like Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. When I saw the trailer and the promotional work for Da 5 Bloods, I knew I was going to be hooked. Reasonably so, I really enjoyed this movie for its state of the art cinematography above all. The narrative track switches between ‘grainy’ flashback shots from the war when Norman was still breathing and the present day where the four friends are walking among in the colourful nature of Vietnam. Either way, the colour pallet is beautiful and the cinematography extremely refreshing on a 4K television. Depending on what era the film is portraying, the aspect ratio will change to reflect that jump in time.
Regarding the story and the emotional components of the movie, all the actors are really great together, you can easily feel the strong bond they share even if life brought them separate ways after so many years. The true inspirational figures among them are definitely Otis and Paul, both having to face the reality of fatherhood but also their personal demons, we love to better understand their inner journey. This Netflix flick is ‘sort of’ action-packed, mostly during the end where a Mexican standoff between multiple characters makes it less realistic and more Hollywood-like, but the real reward is the drama between the characters and the psychological journey they each have to face. Of course, Da 5 Bloods remains a work of fiction, but let’s just say I would be really curious to see how descendants of Vietcong and North Vietnamese soldiers would welcome five Americans and veterans of the war in their country in our days.
Needless to say, this is a ‘must-watch’ on Netflix as you are slowly getting back to your normal life in these strange times. Also, if the racial conflict in North America really inspires you to be more informed, Spike Lee’s cinema is a really good start during your free time. Spike Lee’s movies are always entertaining, including the Da 5 Bloods, which also realistically explores the struggles of the African American community in the USA. In a time where Netflix content seems to explode with many pretty average movies, this one is actually worth a shot when you’re not completely drunk on your couch around midnight after a full day of work. Do not expect an easy flowing action film, but more like a dramatic journey among friends in war times. Strangely actual, don’t you think?
“Black Lives Matter”, fists up!
MY GRADE: 8/10