Netflix movies: Da 5 Bloods is timely, powerful, educational and important


Spike Lee’s new Netflix movie, Da 5 Bloods, is the movie to watch right now

There hasn’t been a must-watch movie in a long time thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, a new Netflix movie, has ended that wait.

Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods arrived on Netflix this week, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. The film, about four black Vietnam veterans who return to the country to recover the body of their fallen squad leader, touches on many current events without being ham-fisted about it. It is very clear about its messages, and you have to be trying to not receive those messages to not understand them.

The film has a stellar cast, and at many times, it felt like it was as much a documentary as it is a feature film. The two-plus hour run time was not a problem at all as Spike makes use of every minute.

There is humor, pain, action, politics, race relations, family tensions, PTSD, and history lessons. If you watch this film you will walk away having gained something from it. Whether it’s knowledge, understanding, or a new perspective. If you just saw an action movie you missed it.

What is Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods about?

The film starts out as a reunion. Four old military buddies meet up at a hotel in Vietnam and begin catching up while loudly greeting each other and cracking jokes. The pick up right where they left off. This introduces us to our core group and lets us know who they are.

Delroy Lindo (Get Shorty, The Good Fight) plays Paul. He’s the most boisterous of the group and also seems to still suffer the effects of the war. Clarke Peters (The Wire) plays Otis. Otis is Paul’s right-hand man and the godfather of his son. Otis is the most chill in the group. Norm Lewis (Scandal) plays Eddie. Eddie apparently has done well for himself and owns several car dealerships. The final member of the core group is Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (BlacKkKlansman) who plays Melvin. Melvin is essentially the clown of the group, but he’s serious about this mission too.

We quickly learn that the men have not just come to recover the body of their fallen comrade Stormin’ Norman, played by Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) in flashbacks. Their other mission involves locating and smuggling millions in gold out of the country.

The setup is not dissimilar to that of the earlier Netflix film Triple Frontier with Ben Affleck, which is about a group of veterans looking for a payday that they feel they deserve and going on a clandestine mission. Da 5 Bloods is so much more than that, though.

Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods focuses on real history

Immediately, you are greeted with real historical images of war and conflicts/protests that have taken place because of them in  America and in Asia. Dates and names of the events are given as well. We learn early that Chadwick Boseman’s Stormin’ Norman was big on using history to get his messages across. Initially, these might come off to some as forced, but over time, you’ll see they are necessary and fit into the story.

One of the most important things to grasp from all of the historical references is that black people have fought and died for this country since before its inception. Crispus Attucks was one of the first people to die for America at the Boston Massacre. Yet when the wars ended, they went back to being property or second-class citizens at best. It’s a dynamic that isn’t addressed enough, (If you haven’t seen the Netflix movie Mudbound, I encourage you to do so after this one) and it is at the heart of the current Black Lives Matter movement.

Vietnam was no different. The war was fought during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. was vocally against it, and black people were sent to the country in large numbers. Muhammad Ali famously went to jail for refusing to go and cited the fact that he is oppressed in America and will not go overseas to kill an enemy who hasn’t done anything to him.

Da 5 Bloods does humanize the Vietnamese side of the conflict, and it has its shortcomings in that regard. We see the weight of the war and the impact it still has through the bombs that continue to go off, kill, and maim. Spike shows a sympathetic eye to the feelings of Vietnamese people, but because this was an action movie, he still presents them as the bad guys as well. This is a dynamic that deserves a roundtable discussion on its own.

Da 5 Bloods touches on Black Lives Matter, Donald Trump and current issues

Just as importantly Da 5 Bloods touches on the present as well. The Black Lives Matter movement is addressed, and Donald Trump is mentioned. Paul spends a large portion of the movie in a MAGA hat. The perception of Americans when they travel is addressed, and American revisionist history, when it comes to all of the wars, is also addressed.

Spike does an amazing job of showing how the issues of the past are the same issues today. He also does the job of addressing that the solutions may be the same, as well, whether it be through protest, supporting Black Lives Matter and similar advocacy groups, or simply sticking together as a community and looking out for each other. It’s masterfully done.

Delroy Lindo is incredible in Da 5 Bloods

There has been a lot of buzz around his performance as Paul and it is well deserved. Paul suffers from PTSD, and his son David, played by Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco) shows up because he’s worried about him. Paul is a complicated character who still harbors hard feelings towards the Vietnamese and doesn’t seem to care for immigrants from south of the border either.

He is hot-headed and has to be calmed down several times in the movie. He suffers from night terrors and even has a panic attack at one point in the movie. We learn that he’s mistreated his son for most of his life and that dynamic plays out throughout the movie. We are made to both hate and understand his character at different points in the movie. His performance is great, and it would be great to see him recognized for it at the end of the year and in awards season.

Da 5 Bloods is an action movie

While we do see a firefight back in Vietnam to establish what happened to Stormin’ Norman and where the treasure came from, there is a lot of action in the present day as well. As with any movie of this nature, group dynamics get tricky when money is involved and there are issues between the guys but there are also outsiders to worry about. Not to mention the fact that there are live mines and unexploded bombs everywhere.

While the movie gives you a lot of history and a lot of dialogue there are no dull moments and everything adds to the experience.

Da 5 Bloods is a must-watch on Netflix

Spike Lee did a masterful job with this film. The story is phenomenal in the way it’s told and in entertainment value, as well as the education it will provide for most who watch it. It also adds more fuel to the current movement in addressing historical wrongdoings when it comes to America and its black citizens.

Netflix has included the film in its Black Lives Matter collection. As a new Netflix movie, it belongs at the top of everyone’s list.

Da 5 Bloods is currently streaming on Netflix.

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