Spike Lee is a filmmaker whose films always carry meaningful subtext beneath the surface. That subtext can make your audience angry (BlacKkKlansman), or fill them with insight into bigger issues (Do The Right Thing). In his latest film, "Da 5 Bloods," Lee manages to pull off the trickiest of balances in making something entertaining but thought-provoking. The story follows four African American Vietnam veterans, who return to a land they left behind for two reasons. The first reason being to find and locate the remains of their fallen squad leader (Chadwick Boseman) and secondly, to find a case of buried gold found by the platoon during the war. While some may consider the premise of the movie to play as an “over the top, old men complete one last job” movie, what we get here is so much more.
What makes this two hour and 34-minute adrenaline rush work is the impeccable cast Lee has formed. "Da 5 Bloods," includes several previous Spike Lee collaborators Delroy Lindo (Clockers, Malcolm X), Clarke Peters (The Wire), Isaiah Whitlock Jr. (BlacKkKlansman, Cedar Rapids), Broadway actor Norm Lewis, and Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco). Over the two and a half hour runtime, each of these men are given on-screen time to shine and convey so much more than the plot suggests. In an early sequence, when the men first reunite dancing in a Vietnamese nightclub, we learn about the relationship between them and understand why they have been friends for so long.
As the quest for the gold in the jungle begins, the pace keeps up with fun banter, great music and surprisingly solid action. While the journey and chemistry of the leads is one to behold, the supporting players, a group of landmine diffusers who are a part of the group LAMB (Melanie Therry, Paul Walter Hauser and Jassper Pääkkönen) to shady businessman Desroche (Jean Reno), are only there to service the plot and take away from the leads. Mr. Lee fit in a lot but not quite all of it landed which possibly made the two hour and thirty-five minute run time longer than it needed to be. The only one of these moments that worked for me was when blood member Otis (Clarke Peters), reunites with a woman whom he may or may not have fathered a child with back in wartime. This subplot (no spoilers) serves as a way to advance the story but takes a while to get to its purpose.
Thanks to a score by regular Spike Lee collaborator, Terence Blanchard, and the music of Marvin Gaye, a lot of the subplot qualms I have are easily forgivable. When all elements are able to cohesively form together, we get a film that does two things Spike Lee is known for. While talking about the struggle of African American men in our armed forces, he is also commenting on the state of the world now. From flashback sequences of this unit (where the adult actors are not covered in make-up or CGI to play their younger selves), to one of the men casually throwing a reference to a “president bone-spurs” we clearly hear Mr. Lee’s take on current events.
While letting his actors like one of our leads, Delroy Lindo, (who deserves an Oscar nomination, no matter when the ceremony may be) delivers powerful monologues that will make an audience think, the film never lets up its entertainment factor. "Da 5 Bloods" is a movie that was made to tell a story, but make the audience think throughout. Between powerful performances and a knock-out script this is one you do not want to miss. Want to know the best part? It’s on Netflix, which means you can watch it now! Trust me when I say, in a time when the theaters are closed and you want to be entertained, look no further in your Netflix queue than "Da 5 Bloods."