Da 5 Bloods ★★★★

I’m not even remotely close to having seen all of Spike Lee’s joints, so I can’t really say much about where Da 5 Bloods fits in his personal pantheon. Regardless, I know that when we look back on 2020, this will be one of the first films on people’s minds.

I was reading a recent review of Greg Daniels’ and Steve Carrell’s new show Space Force on The Ringer, in which a principle complaint is that Daniels and Carrell don’t have the stones to call out Trump by name (leaving him entirely offscreen and referring to him only as POTUS). Spike takes the exact opposite approach, directly involving Trump in the action of his latest film. Delroy Lindo plays Paul, one of the four surviving bloods and a proud Trump voter. There’s even footage of Trump within the film, as the other bloods joke that Paul is the guy rocking a “Blacks for Trump” t-shirt, while Spike rolls the clip. It’s not only this direct technique that will keep Da 5 Bloods relevant in historical discussions of 2020 in Film. Paul and his politics are but one facet of this incredibly dense and layered film. As far as I can tell, Spike is commenting on Black veterans, especially in Vietnam, the way the USA treated its Black veterans, trauma and PTSD, fathers and sons, Christianity, the diverse, non-monolithic experiences of Black Americans, brotherhood and the testing of male friendships, and so much more.

For all you humanities professors out there, this is a rich text.

Atop the layers is an adventure film, at first thrilling, and then harrowing, as the four surviving bloods and the son of a blood once again must survive the jungles of Vietnam. There were some segments that were legitimately hard to watch for me, only because Spike and his actors made the characters so lovable that I wanted them all to escape the danger. Lindo is the standout performer as the blustering and unraveling Paul, and he is joined by Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isaiah Whitlock, Jr., and Jonathan Majors, all at the top of their respective games.

I’ve said all this and haven’t even mentioned Chadwick Boseman, as the Christ-like deceased 5th blood, Stormin’ Norman, or the members of LAMB (Mélanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hayden, and Jasper Pääkönen). This is a big, loud, and masterfully made film. The tone shifts might be a problem (a qualm others have found with Spike in previous movies) and there are some moments that I could barely stomach, but I’m already regretting giving this a 4/5 review (damned star ratings, why are we beholden to you so) (who am I kidding, I’m a sucker for star ratings, what a hypocrite I am). I’m sure we’ll be hearing from this film again come April, that is, if there’s any justice in the world.