👹 Lee, or El Duderino, if, you're not into the whole brevity thing’s review published on Letterboxd:
“When you take 20 million black people and make them fight all your wars and pick all your cotton and never give them any real recompense, sooner or later their allegiance towards you is going to wear thin.”
Spike Lee opens up his latest joint, Da 5 Bloods, with a shockingly well timed, eye-opening montaged snippet of Black history throughout the 60-70s. Set to Marvin Gaye‘s masterfully thematic “Inner City Blues (Make me Wanna Holler)” heavy hitters, like Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Kwame Ture, Angela Davis, and Bobby Seale, are all heard and seen speaking on the injustices and systematic failures of the American government predominantly within the context of the Vietnam War. Within the opening minutes of the film, we’re already confronted with Spike Lee’s loud and powerful theme: why fight for a country that doesn’t fight for you? It’s a sobering opening five minutes of unfiltered critique that is still heard echoing this very second. To say that it’s topical and with a finger on the pulse would be a vast understatement; not only has Lee been on the vanguard of bold cinematic activism and awareness, but the same things he admonished over three decades ago are still being fought today. Another harrowing jab at the socio-political climate of the United States from Lee, and yet another joint that continues to speak on the sad reality many still struggle to live in. It’s impeccably evident that Lee has still not lost his touch, and that the same vigor and earnest panache of Do the Right Thing still rings true, even more so now than ever – this exact moment we have been witnessing and actively combating day in and out for the current Black Lives Matter climate. It’s scary how well timed Lee’s latest joint dropped on the world, and let me tell you, it’s one of his best. His far more politically charged The Treasure of Sierra Madre, set within a Vietnam War epic. It’s abundantly apparent that Lee can flex his skills in just about any genre. Da 5 Bloods is a film that will come as no surprise when it tops many end of the year lists and even [read: hopefully] garners some awards season representation.
Da 5 Bloods weaves a tale about four Black Vietnam War veterans who return to Vietnam in order to locate the remains of their old platoon leader and the gold they all hid decades ago. What they encounter is not only an entirely changed country – modernised and seemingly having entirely moved on but not forgotten about the war to the naked eye, – but also in learning more of the Vietnamese perspective on the war. The aftermath of both French and American participation/invasion, reflected in the clashing commentary between both sore losses of a war they should never have been engaged in to begin with. Naturally diegetic discourse on the land still being riddled with land mines, Vietnamese harbouring ill will towards the loss of past family members versus once Viet Cong welcoming their past enemies with open arms and beverages, commentary on Hollywood’s romanticised and glorified alternate takes of history such as Rambo: First Blood Part II and Missing in Action, to abrasive criticism on the current president of the United States. There’s a sense of educative awareness to this joint, where Lee dedicates allotted time to display important Black figures and accomplishments in history, such as Milton L. Olive III—the first Black soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War—Crispus Attucks (considered by many historians to be the first American victim of the American Revolution, killed during the Boston Massacre), and a handful of Olympic medalists. I know I’ve already mentioned it, but it’s truly a perfect time for this film to be seen right now. It’s thematic core is brutally honest and has a sense of immediacy to its message, true back then, still just as true today. With his Colt .45 aimed, Chadwick Boseman's (42, Black Panther, Get on Up, Marshall) Stormin’ Norman effectively hits the current mood right on the head with a monologue, “Every time I walk out my front door I see cops patrolling my neighborhood like it’s some kind of police state. I can feel just how much I ain’t worth.” While certainly being one of Lee’s most bloody and violent films, Da 5 Bloods revels more in showcasing the emotionally rippling shockwaves that forever altered every single participant’s life, on both sides.