Jun 24, 2020
Love him or hate him, there is no doubt that Spike Lee is a masterful story teller. Lee directed, produced and co-wrote Da 5 Bloods released recently on Netflix. Five soldiers who dubbed themselves "Da Bloods" function under the leadership of "Stormin' Norman" who, to them is their "Martin and Malcolm". Tragically he is the one who does not survive. Four now old soldiers meet again in Vietnam ostensibly to retrieve the remains of their fallen leader but also surreptitiously to lay claim to a hidden treasure, a cache of gold that they buried so many years ago. Soon the group of four is joined by Delroy Lindo's, semi-estranged son who comes to support his emotionally disturbed father. Now restored to five, the unit needs the help of another member's former lover to get the gold out of the country. She in turn enlists the aid of a sleazy international entrepreneur , French actor Jean Reno, to smuggle out the loot. There are some lovely scenes of the men in colorful marketplaces, and bars. As they drift up river homage is given to Apocalypse Now. There are also allusions to The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Bridge Over the River Kwai. They engage a Vietnamese guide who reminds them that some wars never end and that antagonisms and resentments as primal as the loss of a relative never fade. Much intrigue ensues as the men continue their quest. There are double crosses and disagreements and much blood is shed.
It is evident that Lee has inherited a strong creative bent from his mother who was and arts and literature teacher. (His father was a jazz musician and a composer.) He begins the film with newsreel clips of black activists, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Malcolm X, Mohammed Ali, Martin Luther King. The talking head sections are spliced with actual events. Flashbacks are presented on a narrower screen so that there is never any confusion as to whether the viewer is in the present or the past, a practical technique. Most, if not all, of Lee's films deal with race relations or political issues or issues that are culturally significant. He has produced over 35 "joints" as his films are called. He has an MFA from the prestigious Tisch school of art at NYU. Besides being a director, producer, and writer, he is also an actor and is a tenured professor at his alma mater.
This film belongs to Delroy Lindo. He is the most damaged and tortured of the men. His PTSD is untreated, simmering and dangerous. His performance is powerful and terrifying and the most award worthy element of the film.
When the original five are in the field and they hear of the assassination of Martin Luther King from Hannoi Hannah, the premise becomes, "why are we killing these people and putting our lives on the line when, perhaps, when we return home to our own country we will get a bullet in the back or maybe a knee on the neck?"
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