In Da 5 Bloods, Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis are four army veterans who decide to return to Vietnam to recover the remains of their squad leader Stormin Norman as played by Black Panther‘s Chadwick Boseman. However, sentiment isn’t the only reason for their return. Buried in the ground on their last, fateful mission with Norman is a box of gold ingots that will force each to reexamine their reasons for being there.
…an explosion of ideas and stimuli which wrestle for space in the dramatic disintegration that ensues.
Arriving as a shot-for-Netflix production, Da 5 Bloods is a strange mixture of the dramatic and the polemic. As politically on-point as you would expect from somebody of Lee’s reputation, the film opens with a lean resumé of black life in America which counterpoints their involvement in a war that wasn’t of their starting.
Moving forward into the future the four remaining vets joyously reform in Vietnam, however, it is Delroy Lindo’s Paul who is carrying the most baggage. A man for whom the war never really ended, his jumps and cultural tics hint as at landmines buried deep within his past. When the group eventually make it to the jungle, Paul becomes an obvious open-wound stomping over each flashback to the next and thereby jeopardising the group’s emotional/lucrative objectives.
In a similar way, Spike Lee’s dense script travels through equally dense undergrowth. Crammed full of insight and details, these insertions could derail other films if it wasn’t for the thin red line that is Marvin Gaye’s impressive harmonies from his LP What’s Going On. As an unofficial soundtrack to both the film’s characters and the film itself, it affords Delroy Lindo with the best role he’s had in years. Cast opposite in him, a much-missed Chadwick Boseman brings some heavy-duty chops to a memory that just won’t quit.
So, whilst the journey from 2nd to 3rd act is unnecessarily weighed down by 45 minutes of self-recrimination which steals much of the movie’s early pace, Da 5 Bloods is an explosion of ideas and stimuli which wrestle for space in the ensuing dramatic disintegration.
That said, whilst not as taunt as Blackkklansman, you could a lot worse than join this richly-crammed drama looking for buried treasure. This is Spike Lee doing what he does best – hitting you with a multitude of ideas and then moving on as you try to recover.