Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
So it’s obvious how timely this film is. The timing here is almost unrealistically crazy. Spike Lee obviously had no clue what would be happening when this movie released, but it’s almost the perfect week for this film to come out. That isn’t enough for the film to be good. I’ve never been one to hype up a movie strictly because it’s timely or socially relevant. That’s definitely a benefit in this case, but why do we criticize movies? They have to execute from a script perspective. The acting has to be on point. Character motivations have to be displayed in a way that allows us to feel what these men/women (men in this case) are going through. The movie has to stick to its tone. Everything I just listed is present in this film. Combine that with how relevant it is, and Spike Lee has himself a winner.
Four African-American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen Squad Leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. The movie does become a bit long-winded after awhile, as the run-time should have been shorter. It’s also much stronger in the second half once the “turning point” happens. The buildup is important when it comes to character-depth, but it takes too long. There are also certain characters that just don’t come back into the fold by the end, and so they feel shoe-horned in at the beginning. These issues are minor in the grand-scheme of things, because the movie showcases almost everything Lee has learned as a Director. His two recent films show me that he is at the top of his game.
From bold choices like switching aspect ratios according on location, to the idea of using the older actors to play themselves in the flashback scenes; it doesn’t take the easy route. The cinematography is beautiful, the integration of actual footage is perfect, and the emotional scenes are a gut-punch. I just can’t get behind the “predictable” criticism that I’m seeing (YouTube comments), even though I completely understand them. Certain scenes had me in complete shock in that third act. Delroy Lindo better get his due this year. There are absolutely no excuses. The Oscars better watch out because he is coming in hot. He was beyond outstanding here, and it may just be the best performance of the year.
Some will (and already have) find this to be too preachy and in-your-face. Why watch a Spike Lee movie if you hate that sort of thing? People act shocked when they see this movie talk about the struggle of a black man/woman, and I’m just baffled? Even if you don’t care about “who the Director is”, did you see the poster? I didn’t even find this film all that drastic in that regard. There were some political lines in the beginning, and one element that was a bit too on the nose, but the film was mainly hitting on veterans and the ongoing racial struggle/divide in the world we are currently living in. I don’t find that to be political. I just find that to be real. It’s real with its emotions, and it’s so different from a stylistic standpoint. The pacing doesn’t always work (just a bit long), but it’s a beautiful film. This is one that may benefit from a rewatch as well.
🔜The King of Staten Island