DA 5 BLOODS gets 8/10 Back in the jungle

Directed by Spike Lee

Starring Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Chadwick Boseman
Network: Netflix


For a film with so many flaws, none seem damning enough to entirely take away the impact of this astonishing and ambitious film. Especially as it’s so singular in the war genre. Da 5 Bloods has its share of pacing issues, cliches, and overwrought moments tenuously tying this fiction to reality, yet it doesn’t spoil the film’s earnest and humanistic message that crosses between many identity borders like race, class, geographical upbringing, and temperament.

The title refers to five African-American soldiers of the Vietnam War, of whom one did not make it out alive. Upon returning to the country in modern times, they set out to retrieve their buried treasure, recently unearthed due to a landslide. As it goes for films about folks hunting gold, tensions escalate, particularly when outside parties start getting involved, willingly or unwillingly.

Da 5 Bloods is set mostly in the present day, though cuts at times back to the soldiers’ Vietnam War days, utilising some nifty transitions between digital to 16mm camerawork, as well as shifting aspect ratios. Director Spike Lee (in his first outing sinceĀ BlacKkKlansman) has a professional and assured control of how he uses the medium of film to so efficiently and intelligently switch timelines.

The key character amongst the four surviving vets is Paul (Delroy Lindo), a terrible sufferer of PTSD. Although the depiction of such a post-war condition seems repetitive at first (he’s seen to be trying to keep his cool then gradually loses his cool at both his travel buddies and Vietnamese locals several times), it eventually develops into a crazed furor that puts all his stances on greed, fatherhood and faith to the test.

Delroy has received unanimous acclaim for his performance, and the film certainly props him up, giving him his crazed monologues on a silver platter. Nonetheless he absolutely nails an increasingly difficult role and gives an already complex character even further elaboration.

It’s easy to be cynical about a film like this, and dismiss it for the clunkiness in its storytelling, tonal shifts, and perhaps even its earnestness (it uses seven songs from Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Going On). Although these flaws affect how the film gets its message across, it still manages to stand up proudly and broadly with its filmmaking innovation and deliver a war movie (or post-war movie) that so solidly supports unity in favour of division.


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