“Da 5 Bloods” is a movie directed by Spike Lee and was released to Netflix on June 12. The film — written by Lee, Kevin Willmot, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo — has a run time of 155 minutes.
Although the quality of some of those minutes are questionable, every minute is necessary to tell the story of a group of Black Vietnam war veterans. The group — who dub themselves Da 5 Bloods — return to Vietnam in hope of finding gold and the body of their deceased squad leader Stormin’ Norman, played by Chadwick Boseman.
The gang consists of Paul, played by Delroy Lindo; Otis, played by Clarke Peters; Eddie, played by Norm Lewis; and Melvin, played by Isiah Whitlock Jr. The group morphs throughout the film at one point to include Paul’s son, David, who is played by Jonathan Majors.
The first clip of the film is of Muhammad Ali, the famed boxer and activist, talking about his opposition to the war in Vietnam. “My conscience won’t let me shoot my brother or some darker people or some poor, hungry people in the mud for big, powerful America. Shoot them for what?” he said.
What follows is a montage of activists speaking and scenes of destruction that come as a result of resistance. These diegetic shots, moments presented outside the space of the narrative, are used repeatedly throughout the film. They are graphic and punctuate the raw words shared by the characters on the screen. Rather than rely completely on recreations of these very real events, the audience is shown the truth of it all. One jarring truth is that the treatment of Black people continues to be America’s most divisive topic. War, a topic that is often shown from a positive perspective, is also put center stage in “Da 5 Bloods”. America’s decisions to wage war have impacted people at home as well as abroad. At times, these scenes of war are graphic and can activate trauma for some audience members, but the inclusion of these shots is still powerful and undeniably necessary.
Music is an integral part of any film. The soundtrack in “Da 5 Bloods” keeps viewers in tune with every rise and fall of emotion the characters experience. Every song is chosen with purpose. A vocal-only version of “What’s Going On” plays twice in the film, exacerbating its importance. The song draws focus to the concern each character in the film seems to have for the black community. The film provides a space that explores blackness at its highs and lows. The sounds of Marvin Gaye are able to translate hope and happiness as well as grief and anguish. A list of all the songs included in the film can be found here.
The film’s writing is honest. The raw conversations sprinkled throughout the film don’t come off as too heavy or unnatural — they flow in and out of the main plot with ease. These moments provide a clear reflection of the reality many Black soldiers have to live with. Black fatherhood, mental health, racism and familial trauma are just a few of the topics discussed amongst the group.
At a time when the world is facing a reckoning over its treatment of Black people, the film couldn’t have been released at a better time. Lee provides an unrefined view of what Black life has been for some. Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all mold for the Black experience, but “Da 5 Bloods” is able to speak to the universal fight for freedom.