Owen’s review published on Letterboxd:
Gotta give it up to Spike Lee for still going strong almost 35 years later, especially with his new film that finally dropped today. I’ve been waiting on this for a while now and this was so worth it! Da 5 Bloods does such a stellar job making a point about black people being in the Vietnam War, on the front lines fighting and giving so much for a country that doesn’t even give two shits about you. And it’s such a hard-hitting point, particularly when you consider all the history and post-Vietnam War media. There were nice tidbits to notice throughout the film, including the switch from footage to photos being showcased, as well as the transition from current day to the flashback scenes with the aspect ratio. The usage of Marvin Gaye music throughout the film was absolutely spectacular, especially when I heard the acapella of the classic “What’s Going On” during the 3rd act of the film. There was even some slight but clear Apocalypse Now inspiration sprinkled in this film, with some of the cinematography and shots; mainly with the flashback scenes. And all 4 characters were all unique in a pretty great way, especially seeing them reunited almost 50 years after the death of their 5th friend Norman (Chadwick Boseman) in the War.
Out of all the characters though, Paul (Delroy Lindo) really ended up being the best and most interesting character throughout the film’s 2.5-hour runtime. At first, he can easily come across as an ignorant, angry MAGA-supporting prick (although his politics with Trump wasn’t really touched upon like I lowkey expected, felt like it was just slid in there for some bits), but it was so interesting to see how he coped after losing Norman; and how much his PTSD clearly affected the relationship between him and his son, who came with the four vets on the Vietnam reunion journey. The rants and monologues he had towards the camera when he left the rest of the team to go solo were so amazing, adding so much to the great cinematography the film had. And I was happy to see Spike bring back his style of having a character reciting the letter they wrote to the camera, and he did this for Paul’s letter to David at the end of the film.
Only thing I felt could’ve been better was the film using younger actors for the flashback scenes, or at least making the main actors look younger. It almost rubbed me seeing them literally look the same in the flashback scenes with no alterations (although at the end of the film, they did some editing of their faces on their old war picture). And the subplot of Otis’ relationship with a Vietnamese woman could’ve been tackled a bit better, especially when he realised he had a daughter and the struggles the mother went through with this.
Nonetheless, this was a fantastic watch!