If there is one certainty that DA 5 BLOODS proves, released today on Netflix, is that Blackkklansman wasn’t just a one hit minor resurgence in writer/director Spike Lee’s career. It is now a confirmed solid resurgence. I’ve seen a majority of Spike Lee movies, and as unfortunate as it is to say this, he is more miss than hit. This movie though, now ranks among his best, which includes Blackkklansman, Malcolm X, 25th Hour, Inside Man, and of course his masterpiece, Do The Right Thing. While the releases of Netflix’s The Last Days of American Crime and the final season of 13 Reasons Why couldn’t be more ill timed because of the police brutality and racism protests, Da 5 Bloods couldn’t be more perfectly timed. It has something to say throughout the whole film while also being an emotional action-heavy drama little adventure thriller. While the film has some heavy handed (but pretty spot on) things to say about Trump and racism in general, and also shows how masterful the Black Lives Matter movement is, it managed to not constantly ask you “do you get it?”. Yes, there may be a little too much real footage of black & war in general history at the beginning and ends of the film (it doubles down on what Blackkklansman had), but ultimately it is necessary set up that compliments and strengthens the character piece at the heart of the story. The movie is also very long, at 2 hrs and 35 minutes, but unlike The Last Days Of American Crime, that length is earned, never felt, and the film never lags, no filler. This film is sure to come back into the minds of audiences come award season, whether that definitely happens this year/early next year remains to be seen, but whenever it does, it will be nominated for a handful of Oscars, all deserved.
Per IMDB.com, Da 5 Bloods is about “four African-American vets who battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen Squad Leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.” The film has a little of everything in it; action, drama, the horrors of war, a little adventure thrown in there, some blaxploitation cinema that Spike Lee is known for. It’s a solidly made film, and it is a bit surprising that it works so well narrative wise because this film has four screenwriters (usually anymore than 2 is a bit worrisome). I was a little worried when the film started to have the same beats that Triple Frontier had, Netflix’s film released last year about U.S. Delta Force soldiers doing a heist of riches in South America. But my fears were completely wiped out, as it quickly goes in another direction, with some twists I saw coming, but mostly others that caught me a bit by surprise. Spike Lee isn’t known for being an action director, especially when his most action packed film is unfortunately considered the remake of Oldboy, which Spike Lee just copied shot for shot (he even disproved of that final product, opting to have the marketing read A Spike Lee Film other than his usual and creative A Spike Lee Joint). But here, the action is his own, focused, steady, no shaky cam, framing the camera just right so we don’t miss a second of it. Thankfully he doesn’t go all Michael Bay on us and the action is quick, doesn’t over stay its welcome, is realistic, and is quickly contained. But after watching this, if he wanted to ever do just a straight up action film, I would easily put it on my most anticipated list for whatever year it comes out.
The acting is all great here, with Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther, showing up in a very minor role (all in flashback) playing the soldier that was killed in ‘Nam and the other four trying to get his remains. But if there is an MVP in acting, one that will probably get a nomination come Oscar time, it is going to be the great Delroy Lindo. Delroy Lindo has played a bunch of supporting roles, I know him as early as playing the villain in Get Shorty, but here, he is the lead. His character has PTSD, which plays a central role in the narrative, and even though Lindo has been great even in the shittiest of film, here, Lindo fires on all cylinders. He has a couple of fantastic monologues and he steals every scene he is in. Spike Lee is the film’s overall MVP. His work behind the camera here is near perfect, as he uses different aspect ratios at the different points of time in the story to his advantage. He doesn’t even do de-aging (except for one two second photograph) of any of the actors. When flashbacks occur, its the actors at their current age, and it works so much better than if they had digitally altered them. If I had any complaints, is that yes, I was a bit overwhelmed like other critics are, at the length of real black history and other war moments footage in the film. Remember that footage of Charleston a couple of years ago, where a car ran over a bunch of protesters and killed one of them? Spike Lee used that to end Blackkklansman. Well, double down on that kind of footage here to drive the narrative’s multiple messages home. I did say above that ultimately they were necessary set ups to the narrative, but it was a little too much this time. Scale back just a little next time Mr. Lee. Save those for a documentary, you would probably knock it out of the park with one of those. Also, I didn’t like how the 4 men found the treasure and remains of their leader so fast. It felt like someone else could’ve found it wayyyyyyyy before then. That’s just minor nitpicking though. Overall, this is a very good film. Spike Lee deserves all the praise he is getting for it and I liked it as much as Blackkklansman if not a little more so. Here, he has crafted an emotional coming of late age drama with fantastic character pieces, action set pieces, and messages that are especially relevant to these times, heck, this very month.