NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Review of ‘Da 5 Bloods’

“Five bloods don’t die, we multiply” is a quote heard frequently in director Spike Lee’s latest film Da 5 Bloods, a thrilling tale that’s equal parts revisionist war epic and treasure hunt adventure, while also infusing his typically provocative social commentary that’s just as relevant today as it was back in the time period it’s partially set in 60 years ago.

The plot follows four African-American Vietnam veterans – Paul, Otis, Eddie, and Melvin – who return to the country to track a supply of gold bricks they hid during one oftheir last missions, as well as recover the remains of their fallen platoon leader, “Stormin” Norman, played by late great Chadwick Boseman.

Along the way, the squad tackles various topics often accompanied with correlating flashbacks, such as racial inequality including stereotypes associated with the Black man, modern politics, other issues they left behind in Vietnam, as well as personal demons such as PTSD and greed.

If that wasn’t enough, they soon discover they’re not the only ones seeking the fortune.

Da 5 Bloods has been on my watchlist for a while now, having been a fan of Lee’s work ever since I saw BlacKkKlansman for the first time.

What gave me the motivation to watch it now was that I recently attended an NECC JRN/COM career panel, where I met two people who worked on the film: Veronica Vozzolo, the second assistant editor who edited the first two minutes of the film, and Luftar Von Rama, who served as editor for the visual effects.

They provided a lot of great insights into how they worked on this film and other projects, so naturally my interest rose even more.

I’m glad I finally did see it, as not only is Da 5 Bloods one of the best films of 2020, it’s also one of Lee’s best films period and a worthy follow-up to BlacKkKlansman.

The social commentary is right-on point and feels like it was written not too long ago, and I definitely mean that as a compliment.

Referring back to the first two minute swonderfully edited by Vozzolo, they establish what messages to expect perfectly by showing archival footage, including interviews from well-known civil rights advocates, protests, and of course footage of the war taken overseas. It’s horrifying given the implications, but also beautiful given the craftsmanship on display.

The editing after that by Adam Gough is also excellent, cutting to the right camera angle when the scene calls for it.

Longtime Lee composer Terrance Blanchard’s score is also amazing, and may be his best one yet.

Speaking of music and social commentary, the film also features an assortmentof Marvin Gaye songs, with an a cappella rendition of “What’s Going On” standing out in particular. When you take out the otherwise upbeat-sounding instrumentals and listen solely to the lyrics, it’s actually very somber to hear “Brother, brother, brother, there’s too many of you dying,”“war is not the answer.” or “don’t punish me with brutality.”

All of this ties into the themes superbly.

Delroy Lindo gives one of the best performances of the last year as Paul. Hisc haracter is definitely the one most affected by PTSD (something he himself admits in one scene), disillusioned by how America failed to honor the Black men who served in a war the country should’ve never got into.

He’s paranoid, often moody, and sometimesjust plain hostile to those around him, even to his own son, played by Jonathan Majors. That being said however, he’s by far the most interesting member of the group.

Other cast members who deliver strong work include Clarke Peters, Majors, and Boseman, the last of which isn’t in the film too much, but still plays a major part in the story, andwhenever he is on screen, he definitely owns every scene he’s in. Rest in Power.

One other thing worth pointing out is that the film is very violent, and is probably not for the faint of heart. It may be Lee’s most violent film since Summer of Sam o rMiracle at St. Anna (the latter film actually has a couple thematic similarities to this and I recommend checking both out as well).

Sure the action sequences are expectedly bloody for a hard-R film, not to mention very well done, but the most disturbing part is,once again referring to the archive footage, is that some of the gorier scenes were real.

When you realize that, it can be a bit hard to watch, but it’s warranted given the importance of the message, especially being given this high amount of energy and passion.

Da 5 Bloods is funny, shocking, sad, intense, and nothing short of spectacular. It’s beyond me why this was only nominated for Best Original Score at the Oscars (even though Blanchard’s score was great), but the film is skillfully directed, impeccably acted, and in time will be seen as an important masterpiece.