Spike Lee’s newest film “Da 5 Bloods” opens up with Muhammad Ali being interviewed in 1978 and it closes with one of the last speeches Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a year exactly before his death in 1968. Lee used these two figures during the civil rights movement in the 1960s to point out their commonality and opposition towards the Vietnam war. Ali had four years of his boxing prime taken away from and his heavyweight championships stripped from him. Even though he had to relinquish his materialistic triumphs in the ring, he believed that the real championship was to bring forth liberation to black people and the oppressed and disfranchised.
“Da 5 Bloods”, depicts the trauma and psychological effects that black men faced during the Vietnam war and exalting the unacknowledged heroism of black Americans. The film tells the story of four Vietnam War veterans and lifelong friends. Over the years they’ve become distant but not estranged. They reunite and regroup in Ho Chi Minh City with a dual mission, the first one was to recover the body of their former commanding officer Norman (Chadwick Boseman). The second task was to collect a stash of gold bars that they buried after the firefight in which Norman was killed. These veterans have interesting and contrasting personalities which makes it an enjoyable movie, there’s the jokester Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) the level – headed medic Otis (Clarke Peters), the one who achieved the most post-war success but it all went downhill after a revelation (Norm Lewis). To round out this quartet, the commanding and hot-headed Paul is played by Delroy Lindo. Lindo delivers an outstanding performance and plays the deeply psychologically damaged Paul incredibly well in scenes that provoke his anger and tension towards his fellow brothers in arms, but there is a reason behind that all and it is shown towards the end where he has a breakdown cursing about God and deliverance to himself. “I am a man”, “I will choose how I die” he shouts. Paul admired Norman, the team’s commanding soldier who died in the hands of Paul, and ever since then he’s had PTSD and agony years after Norman’s death. Paul’s trauma is slowly revealed as the film progresses and you’ll start to empathize more with why he acts the way he does. In addition, his son David (Jonathan Majors) has joined the four veterans and looks to reconnect with his father who has resented his existence since his wife died giving birth to David, but as the film progresses they do their best to make amends in an adverse environment.
“Da 5 Bloods” runs over two hours, two hours and thirty-four minutes to be exact, but it’s worth every minute. The action and there’s tons of it is intense, furious, and moves the plot along well until the ending. I felt the timeline shifts from the present day to their time in the Vietnam war transitioned smoothly and didn’t interrupt the momentum. The inclusion of real documentary footage of the war added depth to the story’s fictional characters and how it impacted the lives of black American soldiers that felt there was going to be no tomorrow unless they kept fighting a war away in a foreign land for a country (USA) that waged a war on them since slavery. As stated before I think that the film’s runtime of over two hours will exhaust some viewers with the amount of information packing Lee and his writers added to the film with the social commentary and examination of black men heroism in wartime that is often overlooked in world history. Spike Lee has had his hits and misses in the last 30 plus years of directing, but I will say that he has directed an impressive film with enough urgency and riveting freshness during this time where racial tensions are at an all- time high and solutions to pain are usually a challenge to the afflicted.