Da 5 Bloods

This is a brilliant cinematic train that tragically runs off the rails long before its conclusion.

While I was finally able to hunt it down on Netflix with great anticipation, I was profoundly disappointed.  Thought I have embraced nearly all of Director Spike Lee’s films, I gradually lost interest in this one.  It is length of 2 hours 36 minutes did not help.

The film has an important theme, centering on 4 black American Veterans of the Vietnam War returning to try and find the remains of a much-admired leader killed in combat and a treasure of gold buried at his request.  That the deceased friend known as Stormin’ Norman was played by the late Chadwick Boseman added a bit of joyful suspense to the film.

Yet as you watch the four comrades, played by Deroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock Jr., begin their journey into the jungles of Vietnam, the film gradually collapsed under its own weight.  Though I wanted to see more flash backs centering on their battles, Director Lee spent very little time to allow the audience to absorb that experience.

What was worse is that Boseman was seldom on screen.  Maybe this is a foolish thought, but I wanted Director Lee to allow the veterans to honor a dead friend where the audience could honor a dead actor. Unfortunately, it fell short.

However, the most tragic shortcoming of the movie was the decision to concentrate on Paul, played by Mr. Lindo. Clearly suffering from PTSD, you were forced to watch unending scenes where Paul dominated everyone with his outrageous vocal harangues.  Sadly, you were left thinking, “Good Lord, Mr. Lee, will this ever end?”

Yet underneath all of these shortcomings were themes of historical importance that resonate throughout our country to this very day.  To begin with, the Vietnam War will forever scar our country.  We killed over 1,000,000 Vietnamese while poisoning their land with Agent Orange.  In addition, land mines still litter their country.  The only way the My Lai Massacre could be forgotten is if Donald Trump had been President so he could pardon the killers.

And over 50,000 young Americans were sent to a meaningless death.  I remain convinced that had I not won my draft appeal in 1970 that my name would be with theirs on the Washington Memorial.

Good movie or not, at its best the film focuses on racial prejudice in our country.  You watch Martin Luther King oppose the war while young black men made up over 30% of the American fighting force.  African American men could be called on to serve our country while being denied equal treatment upon returning home.  That is still true to this very day.

When Monica and I were on a two-week cruise that included Vietnam several years ago, we were astonished on seeing how Americans like us were warmly welcomed.  Do you think we would have ever forgiven a country that devastated our nation the way we did theirs?