Charles Wang’s review published on Letterboxd:
Wrote this review for an English assignment so I might as well put it to use here:
For some, the war was never over. Such is the idea perfectly encapsulated by Spike Lee’s latest war drama Da 5 Bloods. Undoubtedly the most important African American filmmaker, Lee literally gave black people a voice on the silver screen. And with the latest entry in his already astounding filmography, Lee delivers some of his most poignant and relevant work yet. Da 5 Bloods explores the story of four African American veterans of Vietnam – ‘bloods’ as they call themselves – venturing back to Vietnam in the modern day to recover the remains of their fallen squad leader, as well as a stash of buried gold.
Beneath its surface though, Da 5 Bloods is not a film about gold. The core of it is really about the idea that a person, when faced with so much loss and oppression in their lifetime, would inevitably veer down a dark path and make the wrong choices. This is clearly reflected through the main character Paul. Traumatized by the death of his best friend in the war, then subsequently losing his wife to childbirth, Paul has lost more than what any man should lose in his lifetime. Combined with the effects of the invisible systematic oppression he faces as a black citizen of the United States, Paul has gone on to support the ideals of President Trump. He distrusts anyone, especially those not like him, and in his head a war has always been raging. The story is centered around his crumbling relationships with those closest to him, his descent into despair and eventually his redemption.
The film itself is a sheer monolith of cinematic craft. And despite being filled to the brim with wall-worthy images and a mesmerizing score, the most fantastic parts of the film came during the flashback scenes. Sparing yet powerful, Lee’s use of the 4:3 aspect ratio, gritty color palette and documentary-style camerawork convincingly recreated the jungle battlefields of Vietnam. One could feel the bullets whizzing past meer inches away, and the impending danger lurking between the dense, shadowy tree trunks. In particular, one flashback of an argument between the 5 ‘bloods’ was just pure cinematic brilliance. The writing, the music, the visuals, the performances – everything came together to form such a perfectly-rounded whole, it just goes on to show Spike Lee’s complete mastery of his craft.
Throughout his career, Spike Lee has frequently been referred to as a realist. His films are usually raw and direct. Now at age 63, Lee has transcended. Da 5 Bloods is a poetic piece of art from start to finish. The screenplay and direction are both so nuanced this time around, it is clearly the work of a seasoned filmmaker with profound insights on life and society. Has the golden age of Spike Lee just begun?
According to Lee it really was a coincidence but as mentioned previously, this film is relevant. One might as well question whether the distributors of Da 5 Bloods were time travelers or prophets, as its release could not have been timelier amidst a world of #BlackLivesMatter and #WeCan’tBreath. With dozens of brutal attacks on Asians amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and of course, the murder of George Floyd, racism is threatening to tear American society apart. Lee’s film examines this century-long disease that has plagued America. Deeply saddening and infuriating ideas are explored, such as black soldiers fighting for a country that hates them, and invisible systematic oppression turning oblivious black people to the side of their oppressors. In the end though, Da 5 Bloods closes with a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reciting a poem of hope. While being a profound and in-depth examination of all the atrocities that are happening, the film is also a much-needed call for unity and redemption. And of course it is just two and a half hours of pure movie magic.
Good would be an understatement for this film. It is masterful. Important would be an understatement for this film. It is essential. See it. That’s the double truth Ruth. Peace out. Right on right on...