One of the serendipitous outcomes of the 2020 stay-at-home orders (depending on your movie-going habits, of course) was a flood of excellent Hollywood fare migrating directly onto the various streaming platforms. Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods (2020) was one of those highly anticipated films that you can now view on Netflix. It's one of Chadwick Boseman's final roles, and it's a doozy of a film that takes a while to fully process.
The film is vintage Spike Lee. He's one of my favorite filmmakers for both his ability to tell stories creatively and for the various signatures that stamp his films as uniquely his. Delroy Lindo is amazing in this film as the complex character Paul, and he has one of those great Lee monologues late in the film when he's tramping through the jungle, spouting his philosophy directly into what is probably a steady cam. The film is spliced through with famous stills from the Vietnam War, as well as archival footage of such Civil Rights luminaries as Muhammad Ali and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. These hallmarks of Lee's narrative style add historical context and serve to underline the persistent narrative that both the natives of Viet Nam and the disproportionate number of African American soldiers killed and wounded in action were heavily traumatized by the war.The film spans multiple genres. It's a political film, a buddy caper, a heist movie, and an action film all rolled into 150 minutes of compelling, unsettling imagery. The piece builds slowly while characters bond, and the chemistry among the principal cast is authentic and rich. The third act is a pedal-to-the-medal sprint toward redemption, however, and in this way it's also indicative of a few types of film melded into one cohesive work of art.
The plot involves a group of war veterans returning to Viet Nam for two purposes. They hope to recover the remains of their leader, Boseman's Stormin' Norman, but they're also searching for a large cache of gold bars they'd buried in the jungle during their last tour in Viet Nam. Along the way, they encounter all manner of trials and assaults in the run-up to the bloody, strangely satisfying conclusion.
It's a fine film, illustrating Lee's work at the height of his creative powers. The acting, staging, and writing are superb. It's never a comfortable watch, but it's always compelling--the calling cards of a good Spike Lee film. Give it a watch, but be warned that it can get a little graphic toward the conclusion.