FILM UNFILTERED – Netflix offers Spike Lee’s compelling film ‘Da 5 Bloods’

FILM UNFILTERED – Netflix offers Spike Lee’s compelling film ‘Da 5 Bloods’

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In my opinion, Spike Lee has always been a talented filmmaker and cinematic provocateur. From a cultural standpoint he is not shy about making his opinions known, nor expressing himself regarding racism or the plight of the black community in America.

Many of his films over the last decades have struck powerful chords for both the actors portraying the roles and those that view his films. He isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea, much like Quentin Tarantino, but his films provoke thought and discussion in a good way. He’s not afraid to address racism and usually uses it as a plot device to some degree. This week, his new film “Da 5 Bloods” opens up on Netflix and it ventures down some familiar roads but also explores some other avenues.

Watching this film, I was immediately struck with a sense of déjà vu since it was very close to “Triple Frontier,” which I just saw and reviewed in this column only weeks ago. Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” centers on a group of Vietnam veterans and retirees who retire to that country for two reasons: First to recover the remains of their squad leader, “Stormin’” Norman (Chadwick Boseman), and second to locate the trunk of CIA gold they’d found and buried decades earlier. The group consists of Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and David (Jonathan Majors).

They start off in Ho Chi Minh City to see the changes and differences and aptly point out that a lot of lives could’ve been saved if they’d just sent Ronald McDonald and the Colonel (of Kentucky Fried Chicken) over there. The American footprint is all over but many of the traditions are still the same sadly, such as maimed beggars and vendors peddling everything on the small canals and viaducts. The men themselves are all very different even though they served together and each has his own personal demons. One is a Trump supporter and his friends all but vilify him for it. They are all rattled and drop to the ground fast as lightning when someone tosses a bundle of firecrackers at them.

The movie bounces back and forth a bit from the past to present, and I like what Lee does here because when they revert to the past, the screen goes from the panoramic widescreen 16:9 ratio we’ve all come to enjoy on our big screen televisions to the traditional square box format of the 1970s. Lee also spends an enormous amount of time and effort highlighting black history throughout the film and using cultural moments not just from the racial hotbed of the 1960s and 1970s but also references further back to show how the first president of the United States owned slaves. Lee, though, also serves up a great amount of well-placed humor, oftentimes when it is needed the most. It’s almost as if he senses or gets when he is being too deep or in your face and changes course.

The third act is a tense mix of action, double crosses and reflection. The whole movie is a compelling look at how a group of men can all have such varying views on how their lives have been shaped and altered by a war that happened decades ago.

The film is rated R.

Playing the lead roles in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” are, from left, Delroy Lindo, Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Isiah WhiTlock Jr. and Jonathan Majors.