Da 5 Bloods – Spike Lee is Back in the House

 

A new film from Spike Lee is always an event to relish. He has been pushing the edge of the cinematic envelope across his career. From the freshness of his early work (like Do the Right Thing, from three decades ago) to the recent success of the shockingly true story of BlacKKKlansman, Lee remains a force to be reckoned with.

In Da 5 Bloods Lee again explores the Black experience in America, this time through the lens of the soldier. Lee provides a history lesson, pointing out that a Black man was the first casualty of the Revolutionary War, and for each successive U.S. war Blacks have fought for their country despite unfulfilled promises from the prior war. The Vietnam War was no different, with Black soldiers representing twice the percentage of the Black population. Lee’s fictional tale of four soldiers returning to find the remains of their fallen leader is intercut with documentary footage, providing historical heft to the film.

Delroy Lindo is the standout cast member. He plays a Trump supporter (his MAGA cap gets increasingly trampled as the film progresses). The plot thickens when it becomes apparent that the quartet has an ulterior motive of retrieving a cache of lost gold.

With clear homage to Lee’s favorite film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre his latest film begins confidently as the quartet assembles in country. Although filmed in Chiang Mai (Thailand), the setting of Vietnam is thoroughly authentic. Danny Bilson’s script has solid echoes of Apocalypse Now, but the characters mock the shelf full of films that attempt to go back and win the Vietnam War.

Intentionally or otherwise, the pace and tone become a bit erratic as the team moves through the jungle. Some judicious editing would have kept a drifting tendency from permeating the final third of the film.

As always, music plays an important role in Lee’s films. Marvin Gaye’s voice is used to great effect, often a capella for heightened effect. Lee’s longtime score collaborator Terrence Blanchard is in good form with subtle but effective orchestrations.

But the most subtle and effective musical reference is Lee’s choice to name the main cast members after each of the original Temptations.

Three minute trailer here.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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