Jack Ransom’s review published on Letterboxd:
The latest Netflix original movie and the most recent directorial effort from Spike Lee. Da 5 Bloods sees 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.
Released at a fittingly politically charged and relevant time of which Spike Lee has been very outspoken about. The film presents a very unique approach to the subject of the Vietnam war, with a clever structure and use of time switching to add context, depth and character to the plot as it progresses. The quest adventure narrative structure is an engaging one and allows for a fairly consistent pace, though there are some slower moments that do drag and personally I think the quest aspect of the story was completed too soon.
There are a couple bloody and intense visceral shootouts that are interspersed throughout the plot and the frantic gritty nature of them is striking throughout the more dialogue and character focus drive of the story. There is also an incredibly tense sequence involving land mines, one moment of which hit me like a tonne of bricks and made my jaw hit the floor.
Spike Lee’s direction features his many unique traits and editing techniques. Frequently including photos and footage of real people and events to add even more weight and impact. There is an especially effective and powerfully edited scene involving a Vietnamese radio presenter informing the soldiers of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. The flashback sequences have a grainy 70’s/Apocalypse Now style to them and it really adds a layer of authenticity to them.
The performances are brilliant all round. Delroy Lindo is the highlight here, giving a truly powerhouse and intense performance as Paul. Clearly still battling PTSD and never really truly leaving the war behind. One fourth wall breaking one take sequence is truly outstanding as he deliriously bares his soul. Jonathan Majors is good as his son, who gives a nice youthful contrast to the old school veterans, all of which are played well by the cast. Chadwick Boseman’s presence looms over the story as their fallen brother of whom they are finding the remains of. He gives a commanding yet also at times calm performance.
Da 5 Bloods is an excellent character focused take on the Vietnam war, with an engaging narrative and seethingly intense and very powerful moments throughout. Despite some pacing issues throughout this is certainly one of the best Netflix originals and a highlight of this year so far.