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“Da 5 Bloods”: An Epic Film Telling Unspoken History

Taing Rinith / Khmer Times Share:
From left, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Delroy Lindo. Netflix

Last week, Netflix made a dreadful error premiering ‘The Last Days of American Crime’ at the same time that Black Lives Matter protests spread across the States. The streaming platform redeemed itself with the release of “Da 5 Bloods”, which hits the mark as the whole world looks at the racial injustice.

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother or some darker people or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America and shoot them for what? They never called me “nigger”. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me. They didn’t rob me of my nationality.” This 1978 anti-war state­ment by Muhammad Ali starts the latest Spike Lee’s war drama. A few years before Ali made this speech, The Bloods, a squad of five African-American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War, finds a locker of gold bars in a CIA airplane crash they secured. Angered by the poor treat­ment of black people by the US govern­ment, they decide to take the gold for themselves. They bury the gold with the intention of coming back for it later.

“Da 5 Blood” document the heroic deeds of the African- Americans such as Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the athletes who won medals at the 1968 Olympics. Netflix

In the present day, four surviving members of the Blood: Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), reunite and make a return to Vietnam to retrieve their gold and the remains of their squad leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman). With each of them having different goals for the fortune that’s in store for them, little do these old men know they are heading on a deadly journey, probably worse than the one they were in decades ago.

Both the overall story and screenplay of “Da 5 Bloods” are outstanding. Although at the start of the movie it gives a feel of a bunch of old men taking the mickey out of their health to provide comedy, what actually follows are filled with thrills, plot twists, tragedy and more. Obviously, Lee is being ambitious with this production, with the film lasting almost 3 hours. The script and the execu­tion of the film shows something new and unique, including the attack on white-supremacy pop culture, which has led many media outlets to publish the list of the pop cultures mentioned in the film. One of them include Paul’s remark on Rambo II, which he describes as “All them Holly-weird m%#$#$f*#*^ (expletive) trying to go back and win the Vietnam War.”

All these remarkable features make an excellent combination with Spike Lee’s signature anatomy of race relations and colour in American black commu­nity. Despite being a fiction, “Da 5 Bloods” comprises documentary elements narrating untold true stories. They include the heroic deeds of the African-Americans such as Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the athletes who won medals at the 1968 Olympics, Milton L. Olive III, who died in Vietnam trying to save fellow soldiers and other African- American soldiers who have fought for their country. Meanwhile, the story itself investigates the psychological trauma and shock suffered by those who have fought in the war and upon returning to the US, being hated and called “baby killers” by the people.

Da 5 Bloods” tells the story of four African-American Vets — Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) — who return to Vietnam. Netflix

Moreover, it is obvious Lee has sharp eyes when it comes to picking the cast for his films. All the African American actors who play the members of the Bloods, especially Chadwick Boseman and Delroy Lindo, do a very good job in bringing out their characters come to live on screen and are incredibly natural and convincing in expressing their frus­tration and desperation, probably because of the treatment they have expe­rienced first-hand in their real lives.

If there has to be something about “Da 5 Blood” that I found different and a little strange was, (spoiler alert) Lee had the four main cast, most of whom are currently in their 60s, play themselves in flashback sequences of when they were in their 20s. No make-up or tech­nology to make them seem younger, but seriously, it was so wonderfully executed that it didn’t matter.

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