“Da Five Bloods” is Lee’s second war film after 2008’s flawed but fascinating “Miracle at St. Anna,” trading in the desaturated grime of WWII for the gritty green jungles of Vietnam. Paul, Otis, Eddie and Melvin are four aging members of a squad of soldiers (dubbed “Da Bloods”) who head back to Vietnam to search for the body of their squad leader, Norman, and for a locker full of gold bars they stashed 45 years earlier.
- Netflix Films
- A still from Da 5 Bloods.
While most of the movie takes place in modern day and follows the men searching the jungle for gold and their beloved fallen brother, there are also flashbacks to the war (filmed in glorious and grainy Super-8) and the events leading to the death of Norman (played by the fierce Chadwick Boseman). Watching the ex-soldiers navigating their own past while desperately hunting for some stake in the future is at turns intense, heartbreaking and haunting.
At 156 minutes, “Da 5 Bloods” is messy, frenzied, vital and astoundingly timely. Lee draws a perfectly straight line from the Vietnam of the 1970s to the Black Lives Matter movement of today and releases a howl of frustration, pain and rage throughout every second of the film’s runtime. This movie is Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” writ large as a reminder that Black bodies have always stood between us and war—and to ignore that is to submit to the racist narrative pushed by politicians.
As Lee has aged, his fury has become tempered. In 2018, when the brutally powerful “Sorry to Bother You,” and “Blindspotting” both came out, “BlackKklansman” almost seemed tepid in comparison. But with “Da 5 Bloods,” his anger is palpable and infuses every frame with life and meaning. The film isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t aspire to be. It has too much to say and not enough time to say it, so every scene is overstuffed with ideas and subtext that could be food for an entire film, not just a single moment.
In a way, I’m glad this is a Netflix Original instead of a theatrical release, because the film is getting the attention it deserves. As nice as it would have been to see “Da 5 Bloods” on the big screen, watching it from home feels luxurious and even more immediate. This movie is now, right now, and it has something to tell you.
Da 5 Bloods Dir. Spike Lee
Now Playing on Netflix