Welcome back to the Blog Collab. Thanks for bearing with us while I moved house and got to grips with adulthood. I did a little update here if you’re interested in hearing how that’s going.
This week we continue the theme of movies by black filmmakers with Spike Lee’s latest offering – currently streaming for free on Netflix.
I feel Mr Lee needs little introduction but I will say I was excited for this one after seeing the trailer recently – and off the back of BlacKkKlansman, which I really enjoyed. Anyway, without further ado…
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
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.
During the Vietnam War, the “Bloods” – Paul, Otis, Eddie, Melvin and leader Stormin’ Norman (Boseman) secure the site of a plane crash and bury its cargo – a heap of gold bullion bars – with the intention of coming back later to retrieve it. The gold is originally intended for the Lahu people as a reward for their help against the Viet Cong. Sadly, during an attack from the VC, Norman is killed and a napalm strike blows out all identifying landmarks, resulting in the Bloods losing their pal and their bounty forever.
In present day, the remaining bloods hook up in Ho Chi Minh City. A recent landslide has uncovered the tail of the crashed plane and the men figure if they search the area they’re bound to uncover their hidden treasure.
Time has not been kind to all our friends: Paul (Lindo) is clearly suffering from extreme PTSD and is still haunted by Norman’s death (not to mention the fact he reveals himself to be a Trump supporter). Otis reconnects with his former girlfriend Tiên (Y. Lan) and meets their daughter, the daughter he had no knowledge of before this trip – meanwhile, Eddie has lost all his money and is desperate to get his hands on the gold after all these years.
Tiên – a former sex worker – hooks the men up with her contact, Desroche (Jean Reno), a French business man who charges them an arm and a leg in commission to help them turn the gold into cold hard untraceable cash.
Now all they have to do is get to the jungle and start digging.
Haha. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?
Paul’s son David (Majors) follows his father to Vietnam for a slice of the action – or could it be a little deeper than that?
With the help of their tour guide Vinh (Johnny Nguyen) our gang, including David head for the site of the crashed plane. On their first night on the road, David meets French Hedy (Mélanie Thierry) in a bar. She’s the director and founder of LAMB, a landmine clearing charity. Which could be key later on, just saying.
As the men head into the wilderness they address Paul’s condition, his relationship with his son and all other things – which is beyond touching at times. Paul swears he’s in this adventure purely to find Norm’s remains and to say a proper goodbye – but why has he in particular been hit so hard by their friend’s death?
And will any of them find what they’re looking for?
I found this film incredibly moving in places and a couple of scenes really stood out for me. First of all it’s spliced with real-life footage of horrible injustices committed during the Vietnam war and beyond. Many of these images are ones we know well and they’re no less haunting for their familiarity.
There’s a segment in which a Vietnamese radio DJ talks about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The men are gathered around listening to the announcement and their reactions are heartbreaking.
During the DJ’s piece, she references the percentage of black men who went to war and it was eye-opening for me. I’d never considered how many black lives were/and are given for a country who doesn’t care about them enough to stop killing them/bring about proper justice for them. It’s sickening.
The aftermath of this scene is an argument between the Bloods, who all but Norman want to fight back with violence and rage to avenge MLK Jr. Norman counters that he fought for peace and so in turn should they.
Chadwick Boseman is very good in this small but powerful role and it’s nice to see him beyond his role of Black Panther (who I love).
I also enjoyed the exploration of PTSD, masculine pride and the relationship between Paul and his son. David is a sympathetic character who really comes into his own – particularly when he *spoiler* stands on a landmine. This is something you can see coming a mile off but boy is it stressful every time each of them takes a step!
Again, Spike balances the horror and trauma of war with dark humour and some really raw emotional scenes. There aren’t many female characters here but Hedy is interesting and I enjoyed her chemistry with David.
I don’t want to spoil too much of this as it’s a new film and well worth a watch. It probably isn’t for the fainthearted – there are some horrifyingly gory scenes – but it is a very strong movie with fantastic performances across the board. And the climax is pretty satisfying, given all the tension we have to sit with!