Da 5 Bloods
A remarkable classic of mixed purposes--Spike Lee has rarely been better. On Netflix
Da 5 Bloods
“After you've been in a war, you understand it never really ends. Whether it's in your mind or in reality. There are just degrees.” Vin Tran (Johnny Nguyen)
Spike Lee has transported us from the “hood” to the jungle, Vietnam to be specific, where even he could be humbled by the coarseness of mother nature and the anarchy of human nature. Da 5 Bloods is a masterpiece of adventure and commentary, a tome dealing with Black Lives Matter as it might have taken the critics of that time to a universal treatment of war’s vagaries, especially for minority men.
Lee’s genius is to fulfill the expectations that Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale and Huston’s Treasure of Sierra Madre taught: Men seeking buried treasure will inevitably be overcome with greed (“the root of evil is greed”). As such, it is a rouser of testosterone fueled by that greed and aided by a sincere purpose of returning the bones of a beloved comrade, Norman (Chadwick Boseman), to home.
The buried gold, which Stormin’ Norman helped them hide, is millions of dollars’ worth retrieving from ‘Nam, if only out of naivete that no one would also be after it once they discovered it. Make no mistake, the gold as propellant for the plot is fun to experience cinematically even though the real adventure is of the soul, of the remembrance of the troubled war past, which all the crew experienced together and which follows like a tormented ghost unwilling to free them of horrific memories.
Leading the pack of Black vets is Paul, played to fine madness by Delroy Lindo, who should earn an Oscar nomination. He careens through the jungle and our hearts as if he were one part in the madness of Apocalypse Now and Rambo and another in the darkness of Platoon and BlacKklansman.
As his polar opposite in wisdom, cool Captain Norman is not meant to survive because of his Zen-like understanding of the conflicting purposes of the war—to liberate a poor people from communism and take something home to make the horror worthwhile.
Thus, we also have Lee with dual purposes, one to entertain and the other to edify about the place racism has among the cross purposes of the USA and a society that still sees the poor as expendable. Nor is Lee reluctant to expose the fruits of imperialism.
It’s difficult to do justice to such a multilayered classic; however, it is our job to peel way the adventure to see the figurative effect of war on people of color who have been exploited for centuries.
What a joy to deal with those heady issues in a robust motion picture comfortable teaching and delighting.
Da 5 Bloods
Director: Spike Lee (Malcolm X)
Screenplay: Lee, Danny Bilson (The Flash), et al.
Cast: Delroy Lindo (Get Shorty), Jonathan Majors (Last Black Man in San Francisco)
Run Time: 2h 34 m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com