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A Deeply Intense Battle in Da 5 Bloods: Movie Review

Da 5 Bloods
A Deeply Intense Battle in Da 5 Bloods: Movie Review
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is the Oakville News publishing assistant and arts reporter. He started with the news in 2016 and now specializes in current and live events, film, theatre and entertainment. He comes from Campbellton, NB and has lived in Oakville more than 20 years. Proud Sheridan grad of Journalism and Performing Arts. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Writer/Director Spike Lee has achieved his starkest and most furious film to date with Da 5 Bloods. It’s viscerally important and an feverish experience, but it’s also among the best works of his 35 year career making movies.

The next most important thing to know is Da 5 Bloods is not for everyone and especially not the faint of heart. What begins as a reflective comedy-drama and poignant history lesson soon gets crazy. The intensity gets ramped up higher than any of his previous films.

While the payoff is powerful, it’s a tiring experience.

Lee’s epic is about four African American army veterans returning to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen squad leader (Chadwick Boseman) and the promise of buried treasure. Together they battle forces of humanity and nature while confronted by the lasting ravages and immorality of the Vietnam War.

Race is currently at the front of the global conversation – especially American racism. But the global conversation itself is that of more colours than black and white. Lee finds both the horror and the harmony in this conflict.

Their tour guide Vinh says early on “I’m glad you can see our country in a different light.” Yes, it’s different 50 years later, but the after effects have some serious consequences too.

Da 5 Bloods has a stark message

Most of the film’s morality is about those consequences and the stubbornness that damages more than just survivors. It also damages the memories of both the dead and the living.

The film’s second half moves much faster, and the stakes get significantly more serious. At its heaviest, the ramifications in Da 5 Bloods is reminiscent of Shakespearean tragedies – fervent, bloody, and unnervingly deep.

Da 5 Bloods

Photo: Netflix

“The American war is over” so say the Americans. Unsurprisingly, some of the locals don’t agree with that statement. That’s just one of the after effects that plagues the team of returning veterans.

That same concept is also what grounds protagonist Paul. Delroy Lindo’s performance in the part is soulful and occasionally disturbing. But Paul’s journey is a masterclass of character, even if his lightning-quick changing motives and tactics aren’t always clear.

Some real stories are in the Fiction

The editing often cuts to still photographs of dozens of untold stories. They often describe the “real heroes” whose stories don’t get made into Hollywood movies.

Lee tributes them by splicing in not just their pictures, but their names and dates. What he’s saying is powerful: there will never be enough time to tell all of their stories, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try.

Another great tool used to clarify stories is changing the aspect ratio to show the differences in time. But it’s also a powerful statement about how we as North Americans have seen war differently over time.

By the end of the ride, Da 5 Bloods is an exhausting two and a half hour epic. It’s not always easy viewing, but neither was the story of the Bloods. After some of the easier viewing Netflix has been offering in quarantine, this is by far the best drama release and maybe the best movie of 2020 so far.

Be warned you’re in for a deceptively striking story. But for those who can handle it, Spike Lee has crafted a dynamic movie.

Da 5 Bloods

9 out of 10
14A, 2hrs 35mins.
War Adventure Drama.
Directed and Co-Written by Spike Lee.
Starring Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Johnny Tri Nguyen and Chadwick Boseman.
Now available to stream on Netflix for subscribers.

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