Spike Lee crushed it when he made BlacKkKlansman (2018), and his new film that debuted on Netflix on June 12 – Da 5 Bloods (2020) – demonstrates that he isn’t done elevating his game. Lee is arguably one of the most prolific directors in the last 40 years, having a distinctive voice, an extensive body of work, and still never winning (and rarely nominated) the best director Oscar. Lee’s style and craft shine brightly in this new film through impressive performances, unique storytelling, and even more of Lee’s signature style.
Four friends – who are African-American army vets that served in Vietnam – return to retrieve the remains of their Squad Leader, as well as a fortune they’d buried in the jungle. Elements of this story have definitely been done before, but never in the specific way that Lee presents it – nor in the characters written by Lee and Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, and Kevin Willmott.
The two performances in the film that stand-out the most are Delroy Lindo as Paul and Jonathan Majors as Paul’s son, David. The characters are so complex, and Lindo gets a lot of opportunities to perform. His character suffers greatly from PTSD and a sense of disenfranchisement, which allows for some extremely big moments. He has no problem chewing the scenery or giving epic monologues that feel almost out of place (but not if you’re familiar with Lee’s style). Majors broke out last year in The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019), and he really demonstrates his strong grasp on acting here. He brings much to the film and the chemistry – or lack thereof -, between him and Lindo, adding an important dynamic to the story.
Lee pointedly wants to educate the audience about historical Black figures that are often overlooked. Characters will basically give other characters history lessons in ways that could feel like bad writing – but because of the clear intention behind the movie, they fit in perfectly. Lee also inserts images or clips of these real-life people throughout the film, really cementing the importance of Black people to American society and the inequality that is still running wild today. Yes, this film travels back and forth a bit from present-day Vietnam to the war itself, and Lee utilizes a morphing aspect ratio to help the audience with the “when” aspect of the story, which is yet another cool filmmaking element that the movie contains, demonstrating why Lee needs to always be prominent when discussing Film as an art form. He understands it, and uses it so uniquely that it is often awe-inspiring.
Watch Da 5 Bloods. Then, like I’m planning on doing – dive deeper into Lee’s filmography. Many of his movies are on the various streaming services and seem to be increasing as a result of the various companies being inspired (or, sadly, trying to benefit) by the Black Live Matter movement. Regardless of their reasoning, the inclusion of films from Black filmmakers is a positive thing. Lee is one of the most prominent of those voices, and his new film earns the Must See rating.