Lasting from November 1, 1955, to April 30, 1975, The Vietnam War is one of the longest wars in U.S. history. It was bloody, brutal, and the effects of the war are still apparent 40 years later. Over the course of two decades, the U.S. would see five presidents during its tenure (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon), and 47,434 U.S. soldiers were killed in battle. This war was one of the most controversial wars in the entire world because many U.S. Soldiers came home with PTSD and numerous other mental/physical issues. For some, it got to the point where they had to become homeless or stay in mental clinics.
One of the most vocal national voices against the war was Martin Luther King Jr. We know he was a peaceful man, but it was deeper than that. A large majority of US soldiers in the war were African-American men. They were fighting for a country that did not give them equal rights but did see them as good enough to die in a pointless war. Others that spoke out against the war were Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and Kwame Ture.
These ingredients are what drive the latest Spike Lee joint, Da 5 Bloods. The film is about four African-American Vietnam War veterans Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) traveling back to Vietnam to find their fallen friend Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman) and an incredibly large amount of gold they left behind in the jungle.
These characters embody a good portion of the spectrum that is the African-American experience in the U.S. Paul is a Donald Trump supporter which I understand given his Vietnam War experience, but I will never agree with. He doesn’t like immigrants, any of them. Then there’s Eddie, the black man that got rich and spends his time flaunting his wealth. Elsewhere we have Melvin, the hard-working black man, and Otis, a man seeking to redeem himself. These are aspects we see often, but the way they were portrayed in this film was amazing.
Lee’s storytelling in this film was superb, just as it was in his 2018 film BlacKkKlansman. His pacing is slow but once it gets to where it wants to be, it moves at the perfect speed. Lee, along with Kevin Willmott, Paul De Meo, and Danny Bilson created a story that is heartfelt in its core. It’s incredibly hard to not compare this to BlacKkKlansman in terms of pacing and storytelling because they excel in the same areas. Creating a storyline with no plotholes at all is hard, but Lee has been consistent on the matter.
There are many dynamics to this film and to the war that Lee included. The fact that some 40 years later, the people of Vietnam are still experiencing the effects of the war. The idea of LAMB headed by Hedy (Mélanie Thierry) and her friends Simon (Paul Walter Hauser) and Seppo (Jasper Pääkkönen) is a beautiful thing. The amount of land mines left in the jungle is sickening and disarming them would save many people that still live in the areas.
Da 5 Bloods really came out at a perfect time, and I can’t be anything else but thankful. In a time where U.S. citizens are risking their lives during a pandemic to protest for human rights, this film is extremely relatable. There was no pandemic in the 60s, but there was lots of protesting. Protesting against a pointless war, protesting for black lives, and just wanting peace and love. Spike Lee takes 4 African-American war veterans, creates a story around them, and gives us another relevant film.
There’s no reason why stories about the Civil Rights movement from the ’60s should be relevant today. That’s not progress, it’s stagnation. For a country that was once the model for the entire world, we’ve made zero progress. It’s disheartening and Lee has captured this many times, but his last two films have spoken volumes. – Rascal F. Kennedy
Rating – 10/10
Da 5 Bloods is now streaming on Netflix.
The film stars Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Chadwick Boseman.