DA 5 BLOODS – Review by Susan Granger
Admittedly, it’s early to speculate on the 2021 Academy Awards, but I suspect Spike Lee’s new movie, streaming on Netflix, will be a factor, along with Delroy Lindo’s dynamic performance.
Exploring racial inequity through the lens of the Vietnam War, it’s the story of four African-American veterans who gather at a bar called Apocalypse Now in Ho Chi Minh City. They’re embarking on a dual mission: to recover the body of Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman), their revered squad leader, and find a cache of gold bars they’d buried after he was killed.
Otis (Clarke Peters) has organized the expedition. When he visits Tien (Le Y Lan), a Vietnamese woman who was his lover while stationed in Saigon, he discovers he has a grown daughter (Sandy Huong Pham).
And it’s Tien who connects Otis with Deroches (Jean Reno), the shady Frenchman who will set up offshore accounts to help them launder the gold originally sent by the US as payment for South Vietnamese fighters.
Venturing into the jungle, Otis’ companions include skeptical Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), genial Eddie (Norm Lewis) and deeply disturbed Paul (Delroy Lindo), an avid Trump supporter, wearing a MAGA cap. At the last minute, they’re joined by Paul’s estranged son David (Jonathan Majors).
Between eerie wartime flashbacks and historical montages, along with unexpected encounters with land-mine locators and rogue Vietnamese soldiers, tension mounts – augmented by spectacular tracking shots filmed in Thailand and Vietnam by cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel.
The compelling screenplay by Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott revises a previous script, The Last Tour by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, which focused on aging white veterans, and it’s obvious how much Lee was influenced by his favorite film: John Huston’s The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948).
“We flipped that concept. Put our flavor on it, some barbecue sauce, some funk, some Marvin Gay. And there you have it,” Lee says.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Da 5 Bloods is a fiercely relevant, timely 10. “When you’ve been in a war, it never ends…