Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Movie with Abe: Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods
Directed by Spike Lee
Released June 12, 2020

There are a number of recognizable elements to Spike Lee Joints, what the filmmaker famously calls his movies. After a number of prominent projects in the 1980s, including the Oscar-nominated “Do the Right Thing,” Lee has been regularly working to examine the treatment of black people in America and abroad, and he finally won an Oscar in 2018 for his work on the adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.” Now, in the midst of a global cry for anti-racism in the wake of an increased spotlight on police brutality in America, Lee’s latest has arrived with no need for movie theaters to be open to pointedly question the system and upend expectations.

Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Eddie (Norm Lewis) were all soldiers together in the Vietnam War in the 1st Infantry Division. Their squad leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman) was killed in action shortly after their successful location of a downed CIA plane with gold bars brought as payment to their local Lahu allies against the Viet Cong. Decades later, the surviving veterans, who call themselves the Bloods, return to Vietnam in search of Norman’s body. Paul’s son David (Jonathan Majors) tags along without his father’s approval, and the group of five set out to find the site of the plane, never sure of who they can trust along the way.

This film’s release comes at a powerful moment in this country’s being, and it most strongly stands an example of learning about black history. This film provides an educational framework, through Norman teaching his soldiers and the older characters reflecting on their experiences, about how black Americans were disproportionately sent to fight in Vietnam, looked down upon by the people they encountered there, and discriminated against even in light of their service once they returned to America. This is also an opportunity to give deep, complex leading roles to established black actors often relegated to supporting parts, particularly Lindo and Peters.

As he did in “BlacKkKlansman,” Lee knows how to poignantly and devastatingly drive home a message with a quick cut to real-life footage that shows how racism and violence aren’t even hidden from the masses, just brushed under the rug and considered forgotten. The story here is considerably more free-flowing, and it’s difficult to defend its 154-minute running time as well as some of its plot elements. But ultimately it’s a film that comes at just the right time to ensure conversation around it, more memorable for the right reasons – an emphatic defense of black existence and the enduring right for everyone to tell and frame their own stories – than any lackluster cinematic devices or storytelling decisions.


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