‘Da 5 Bloods’ Review: A Politically Charged, Hard-Hitting Story Depicting The Eternal Racial Injustice

A cinematic masterpiece

An unapologetic presence of white supremacy and rampant racial unrest is what America, which often relishes in its status as a developed country, is currently embroiled in. But this partiality on the basis of race and color didn’t begin (nor did it end) with the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmed Arbery, and scores of many others- the race war in America has been eternal. It is not mere thought but an alive, breathing monster that director Spike Lee boldly depicted in his latest politically charged, hard-hitting venture, Da 5 Bloods. 

It doesn’t matter that Da 5 Bloods was filmed before the George Floyd murder protests took over the streets of America and outraged the world. The film is immortal- the wrongs suffered by black Americans have surpassed decades even after they fought for their country in many wars, laid down their lives, sparing zero qualms to whether their sacrifices will be recognized and respected by a system so ingrained with hatred against their color. 

While this Spike Lee venture demands to be watched, its presence currently makes it mandatory to be witnessed as Lee, the excellent cast he picked, and his impeccable direction artfully handle the hurt and anger felt by millions who bristle at the mere mention that America has developed. Da 5 Bloods daringly questions the authoritarian construct, putting the often repressed reality of being black in America- it is a compelling and moving representation of a sad reality that couldn’t have been depicted better. Hats off to Lee!

Da 5 Bloods, penned by Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott, opens with a stunning video montage featuring black leaders from Muhammed Ali’s 1978 speech to Angela Davis. It is interspersed with haunting images of young African American soldiers during the Vietnam War,  footage of Agent Orange that crippled millions, and violence that ripped through both America and the streets of Saigon. Lee doesn’t shy away from making his viewers face the truth- while wars may be a thing of the past, racism transcended years, transforming but never ceasing to exist.

The story begins with Paul (Delroy Lindo), Eddie (Norm Lewis), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), and Otis (Clarke Peters) or ‘Bloods’ as they call their group, coming back to modern-day Vietnam after 40 years. During the Vietnam War, they along with their now-deceased commander “Stormin’ Norman” (Chadwick Boseman) discovered a cache of gold. Instead of surrendering it to their superiors, the soldiers decide to bury the gold and come back for it after the war. “We give this gold to our people,” said Norman. 

But in the bombing that follows, Norman is killed in combat and all the markers they laid out to later recover the gold are lost. But a recent mudslide has raised the possibility for the surviving Bloods to find the gold and Norman’s remains. But returning to the jungles where they lived death for a country that only shunned them later triggers their old wounds and tragic memories. They are now fighting their memories, their crumbling psyche, a tortured past along with the difficulty of getting the gold out of the country once they discover it.

There are moments when Da 5 Bloods falters, becomes messy- too many things are happening, even if you leave out the convoluted ghosts of the past. Had it been any other director, the plot would have crumbled like a deck of cards in howling wind. But in the hands of Spike Lee, it morphs into a masterpiece that forges unshakeable bonds between its flawed characters and the audience. 

But while all four of them have been weathered by war and injustice, it is Lindo’s Paul who stands out and invokes our empathy the most as a man who tried to outrun the horrors he witnessed only to lead a life that was always scarred by the memories. “We fought in an immoral war that wasn’t ours… for rights that weren’t ours,” says Paul.  

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