I love the smell of Spike Lee in the morning.
Spike Lee’s latest opus “Da 5 Bloods” couldn’t have arrived at a more auspicious occasion. George Floyd’s death has continued to turn America into a war zone, and it’s not just about him, but most of us are crushed that Breonna Taylor couldn’t turn 27. These are dark times, I sympathize that.
Coming on the heels of his Oscar-winning film “BlacKkKlansman” (Best Original Screenplay), Lee continues to go back to his roots, and “Da 5 Bloods” ranks with the Vietnam War movie giants like “The Deer Hunter,” “Platoon,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “Full Metal Jacket.” In fact, even if it didn’t chose to be released today because of the recent killings, it still comes in a timely fashion. It’s punctual to say the least.
We meet four African-American Vietnam War soldiers, consisting of Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), all of whom return to Vietnam to collect some gold bricks they stole from an enemy plane. There was originally a 5th member in their party-their Squad Leader Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman), who died in battle, and was the one who suggested they give the gold back to the fallen African-Americans throughout history. But more importantly, he was basically their Malcolm X, who persuaded them not to turn against white people after MLK’s assassination.
Paul’s school teacher son David (Jonathan Majors, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”) wants a cut of the money, as a makeup for Paul not loving him like a father should. The old man feels broken on the inside, more so than the other members of his team.
The supporting cast also features Jeno Reno as a French businessman; Melanie Thierry as a French NGO worker whom David has a thing for; Paul Walter Hauser and Jasper Paakkonen (both from “BlacKkKlansman”) as her American helpers; Le Y. Lan as Otis’ Vietnamese lover; Johnny Tri Nguyen as the vets’ Vietnamese guide; and Nguyen Ngoc Lam as a Vietnamese gunman vowing revenge for the murder of his father.
Lee also reunites with his fellow collaborator Terrence Blanchard, who continues to compose the score with power and vulnerability. And he also uses classic hits from Marvin Gaye, the Chamber Brothers, The Spinners and Curtis Mayfield, all of whom give the scenes an upbeat and matching look and feel. Lee knows his music.
Both the past and present are beautifully photographed with the past looking like a 1970s movie and the present looking like a modern day movie. Kudos to cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel.
The performances from Lindo, Majors, Thierry, and Boseman are all electrifying and poetic. Lindo shows off his best work to date as a broken soldier who feels poisoned by the spirit of Norman, and refuses to let the white man get him down. Majors knocks it out of the park as his boy, and he has a swell connection with Thierry. Boseman delivers some fresh monologues and scenes without having his “Black Panther” name attract Netflix streamers. And Whitlock, Jr., Peters, and Lewis are all valuable members on Lindo’s team.
I’m more than riveted that “Da 5 Bloods” found a home on Netflix, because you easily can’t miss how daring, heartfelt, dangerous, and poetic it is. It even pays tribute to a variety of African-American legends, some of them you know, and others you’re meeting for the first time. That and it supports Black Lives Matter during the last 15 minutes.
If the Oscars don’t nominate this masterpiece, then they don’t know nothing. This is one for the ages. Don’t miss it.
Available on Netflix