Monday, June 15, 2020

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Genre: Adventure, Drama, War
Length: 154 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Rahway Road Productions, Netflix
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
Actors: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Mélanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Pääkkönen, Johnny Nguyen, Y. Lan, Lam Nguyen, Sandy Huong Pham, Jean Reno, Chadwick Boseman, Van Veronica Nguyen, Anh Tuan Nguyen

Blurb from IMDb: Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.

Selina’s Point of View:
No one has a voice like Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman, Chi-Raq, She's Gotta Have It) has.

Whenever you have a Spike Lee production, you know you’re going to see something unapologetically unique. It doesn’t matter how you wind up feeling about the actual content of the film, it will be 100% original.

The thing is that you can’t actually watch most Spike Lee movies without delving into race. That’s his point, though. So much of his voice involves screaming for the equal treatment and inclusion of blacks. His films being unique makes him great, but that bellow that Black Lives Matter makes them essential.

Da 5 Bloods pulls no punches. Within the fiction is shown scenes of truth. It’s not subtle. There are actual clips of historical events edited into various parts of the film – most notably in the beginning and near the end. A lot of those clips are significantly difficult to watch. They’re brutal and graphic and you should try not to look away.

Those moments in history are there because they highlight the failings of humanity. Every graphic second is included as a reminder of the worst of that era. You’re reminded of the horrific nature of war. It’s historical. And, when you forget the past, you’re doomed to relive it. Maybe the world is the way it is, because we keep forgetting.

The point is that there are people who lived those lives. They suffered those injustices. The least we can do is keep our eyes open to it and remember.

Aside from the historical necessity of those images, they also serve as a setting.

Through those scenes and historical flashbacks, you get a better look into what the four original main characters lived through and where their mentality comes from. So, again, it’s brutal and difficult – but don’t look away.

The way Lee separated the fictional past and the present in the film was unprecedented. The use of aspect ratio to differentiate memory from current events made it almost impossible to get lost. There was an instantaneous moment of understanding every time the edges of the image shrunk or grew that a lot of films that bounce through timelines just don’t offer. Aside from the obvious creative benefits, as a person with attention issues I appreciated it on a deeper level. There were no guessing games and that meant I never got pulled out of the story.

We all know my feelings on Chadwick Boseman (Gods of Egypt, 42, 21 Bridges), so I’m not even going to dwell on how good he is – especially since he’s not in it as much as the others. Jonathan Majors (Captive State, White Boy Rick, Hostiles), Clarke Peters (An Acceptable Loss, Harriet, Come Away), Norm Lewis (Magnum Opus, Just Mercy, Scandal), and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Lost Holiday, Seneca, The Lost Husband) pulled out some amazing performances. I believed every single moment of their time on screen. That said, I want to talk about the other main actor.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Delroy Lindo (Do You Believe?, Domino, Gone in 60 Seconds) is a treasure. I know that he gets some appreciation, but I will always think it’s not enough. He is highly underrated as an actor. He’s got a range that people just don’t talk about and I don’t know why. His take on the character Paul, for this film, was amazing. He portrayed every emotion and paranoid moment so well, that I had trouble not following his mind down that path. It is the most perfect performance I’ve seen this year. There are moments where he’s monologuing directly into the camera that give me chills. There was no one better for his part.

Even when you look past the racial and cultural importance of Da 5 Bloods, you’re still left with a good movie. It’s got an interesting plot, it’s filmed in a new and exciting way, it’s acted well, and the dialogue is so natural and easy to listen to. The imagery and the foreshadowing is also on point. I even loved the soundtrack.

We need more movies like this. It is nearly creatively perfect and culturally demands action. There’s a fight going on right now to end systemic racism and this is the kind of movie that could give that movement a second wind. It’s what this country needs right now, a reminder of how important that fight is.

Final thought? Spike Lee is one of the greats and his films can change the world. This one included.

Cat’s Point of View:
When you hear that Spike Lee has written and directed a project, it’s a safe bet to say that it will be hard-hitting, unapologetic, and carry a powerful message. Da 5 Bloods certainly lived up to those expectations.

There are a lot of movies that focus on the Vietnam War, but this is the first one I can think of that follows veterans returning to the land of the conflict years after-the-fact. Not only that, but I can’t think of any films in the genre that have a black soldier’s point of view. Bubba in Forrest Gump (1994) doesn’t count. In fact, that sort of character portrayal is exactly why this movie, and projects like it, are needed to fill in the chasm left by Hollywood’s tendency to give a primarily Caucasian perspective of the controversial conflict.

When you factor in how guilt and greed tend to affect people on top of the struggles of battle-scarred soldiers, this story puts together quite a few combustible elements that you know are going to explode sooner or later.

Da 5 Bloods had some eerie timing for its release. Films with a strong message, however, might just help bring about much-needed understanding in the world. The story was well executed and the cast was phenomenal.

If I strip everything down to the basic essence of the film, it’s a solid combat action with gunfire, explosions, and intrigue. Add to that, though, the brotherhood of these soldiers, the legacy left by their lives, and the fateful decisions made along the way, and you have something elevated above your average shoot-em-up.

If war movies are your thing – and even if they aren’t – it’s definitely worth a watch.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 61%
Metascore – 81/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

Movie Trailer:

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