This seems like really fortuitous timing on behalf of Netflix to release this film, when you consider the BLM protests going on all around the world right now. And this film has a lot to say on the subject.
Director: Spike Lee
Screenwriter: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo
Starring: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters
Genre: Drama, War
Runtime: 154 Minutes
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by: Pearl
Four Black Vietnam Veterans return to Vietnam to recover the body of their Squad Leader, so he can be buried in Arlington. While they are there though, they also have a plan to recover some buried gold that they hid during the war and smuggle it back to the USA. But of course, things do not go as planned, Pauls estranged son shows up, they run into a minefield and take fire from Vietnamese forces determined to keep the gold in their country.
I wish this film had decided what it wanted to be. There were times here where it was almost comedic with it’s timing and wacky situations. But then other times that it was uncomfortably honest and brutal. I did like the humour sprinkled throughout, but I do think the film would have had more impact and been truer to it’s source material, had it stayed closer to the drama.
All five of our leading men are excellent in this film, all dealing with the fallout of the war in their own ways, or not, as the case may be. But special props should go to Delroy Lindo who plays Paul. Paul is clearly suffering from quite severe PTSD and slowly throughout the film, his return to Vietnam has a terrible effect on him and we watch his mental state decline. There is a point, after he has left the rest of the group, that he delivers a fantastic monologue directly into the camera that is so haunting and unhinged that it really struck a cord from me, and is probably the one scene from this film that will stick with me for the longest time.
The use of original photos and news footage from the 60s and 70s around the Vietnam War and the Black Civil Rights movement help to remind the viewer, especially younger viewers who may not be as well versed in the history, of the terrible wars that were going on at the time, not just in Vietnam, but at home in the USA. And sadly, especially right now, were the discussion is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, reminds us just how long Black People in America have been struggling for their basic civil rights. I was shocked by some of the statistics given in this film, and I think it could very eye opening for people, at least I hope so.
There were some clever editing choices used in this film to keep things interesting a good few call backs to the classic Vietnam War Film Apocalypse Now. You won’t see them unless you have seen the film, but it’s nice that the Easter eggs are in there.
I do think that the film was a little long, and I think a good deal of that was the men arguing over what to do with the gold and who did and did not deserve a share. I think the film could almost have lost the treasure hunt aspect and just been about recovering Norman’s remains, and it would have still been a great film, just with a tighter narrative.
Da 5 Bloods is an important film, it’s eye opening, uncomfortable, at times very funny and emotional. It may not be my favourite film I have seen this year, but I can’t deny it’s poignancy.
It is Available to stream on Netflix now!