'Da 5 Bloods' Review
'Da 5 Bloods' Review
An Incredibly Profound and Relevant War-Drama
In early 2019, Spike Lee's masterclass depiction of racism and the KKK in the 1970s (and present-day) was regrettably snubbed of the Best Picture win, losing to the fun albeit shallow 'Green Book'. Now, Lee has returned, and he ain't messing around.
The movie follows four African-American vets as they return to Vietnam, several decades after the War, in search of the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide.
This movie is a technically ambitious film. Featuring four aspect ratios (2.39:1, 1.33:1, 16:9, 2.39:1) that give each section its own mood and tone. In light of that though, 'Da 5 Bloods' is not a perfect technical film. Some of the sound mixings are not at the top of its game; the score may be overbearing at points or the sound around our characters can be a bit too loud compared to the volume of them speaking, making it a bit hard to make out what they are saying at moments. But with that said, those problems are very few and far between.
Majority of the creative choices made work very well in the movie's favour in this reviewer's opinion. The movie's style may not be for everyone (especially given the arthouse nature of it all) but it is successful at telling the story in a creatively interesting and engaging way. The opening few minutes set up both Lee's style and what is going to be a regular for the next 155-or-so minutes; showing real-life footage of powerful people delivering speeches and footage of horrific scenes of war. Some may find it to be a bit overwhelming, seeing real-life killings and dead bodies (one photo of an infant will forever be etched into this reviewer's mind) but that is the point. He wanted to showcase how war does nothing but cause destruction, sadness and death and if you find it hard to watch, Spike Lee did his job effectively. The choice to have the older actors play their younger selves in the war sequences without de-aging them may sound bizarre on the surface, but with context, it is incredibly powerful.
'Bloods' juggles multiple plots at once. The first half of this 2.5-hour long movie perfectly sets up and pays off the premise, leaving the rest to have free reign to go and do whatever it wants. And while it is a testament that Lee and co. were able to balance the plot threads without many of them feeling too rushed or uninteresting, the lack of focus does jumble the movie's message at points.
Although it is very much a drama, 'Da 5 Bloods' is not without its firefights and tense sequences. The shoot-outs, especially those that take place during the War, feel ripped straight out of an old war feature. There is a scene in the latter half of the film that features a landmine that will have you on the edge of your seat, easily one of the most intense scenes this reviewer has ever seen.
Outside some minor supporting characters, there isn't a weak link in the acting department. Delroy Lindo delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the haunted Paul. His performance helps sell all his emotional beats, even if they feel a tad rushed. In a scene found in the first half of the movie, before the Bloods enter the jungle, Paul and the others are on a boat in a floating market. In this short sequence, we get a truly get a sense of Paul's mental state as he gets into a shouting match with a local. The rest of the cast, Chadwick Boseman, Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Jonathan Majors, Jasper Pääkkönen, Paul Walter Hauser and Mélanie Thierry, all respectively deliver engaging and well-acted performances.
In a sea of lazy filmmaking that has been pumping out on Netflix for the past few months, 'Da 5 Bloods' is a breath of fresh air. Although this is not as strong as his last joint 'BlacKkKlansman', suffering from some technical and thematic issues, 'Bloods' is still an extremely profound and relevant film. Featuring great performances, effective storytelling and a passionate direction, this is a creatively-rich showcase of the relationship between the Black soldiers and the Vietnam War, and one of the first serious Oscars contender of the season. While the style won't be everyone's cup of tea, this is still absolute must-watch.
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