Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, a film which tackles the devastating effects of the Vietnam war on the psyche of black America and in particular the soldiers who served, could not have been released at a more incendiary time.
With protests all over the world sparked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody, Lee’s film addresses the malignant legacy of the Vietnam war on generations of black men who were sent to fight, and on the country itself.
Released on Netflix, an all-star cast lead by Delroy Lindo’s mesmerising performance as Paul, play a group of aging Vietnam vets who return to the country in search of buried treasure and the body of their fallen comrade.
Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Norm Lewis and Jonathan Majors make up the rest of the vets (plus one stowaway son) and are joined by Jean Reno and Paul Walter Hauser as they move from Ho Chi Minh city into the Vietnamese jungle to recover the body of Chadwick Boseman’s “Norm’.
While on a mission during the war, they buried millions of dollars’ worth of gold bullion. Norm was killed during the mission, and now the friends are back to claim what is theirs, and bring Norm home.
Travelling back into the Vietnamese jungle in search of the morally dubious spoils of war. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, a lot, obviously. The vets are clearly still deeply affected by their experience of war, and this has bled into the upbringing of Lindo’s son, David (Majors). A lust for blood and gold descends on the group as they are pursued by personal demons and very real saboteurs, sending members of the party over the edge, as is the way in movies about Vietnam.
Told partly in flashbacks, and cut with archive footage of the conflic, anti- Vietnam protests and even present-day references to Trump, Lee joins the dots between the fallout of the war and the current unrest in the United States.
Part Vitenam movie, part crime caper, part aging buddy comedy, Da 5 Bloods shifts gears like an advancing tank, wrong footing you all the way to a full-throttle ending that offers no quarter.
At times funny, then unbearably tense and occasionally horrifically violent, Da 5 Bloods is perhaps not as evenly put together as Lee’s last, BlacKkKlansman. Nevertheless, it makes for gripping and thought-provoking viewing at a time when the black experience in America and around the world needs desperately to be better understood.