In this strange, surreal COVID-19 era we're all slogging through
blindfolded, the movie situation has been highly unusual, as well.
Most theaters aren't open. The
ones that have re-opened their doors fail to experience even limited
capacity. Hollywood has pulled
back most of the major releases, hoping for a more propitious time for box
office success. And so what's
become available online is a sudden, unexpected opportunity for the small,
independent films, which are usually more offbeat, less dramatic in scope,
and presided over by the not-quites and wanna-bes, some of whom just might
make a name for themselves. Just
don't expect a lot of gravitas.
Enter Spike Lee's new film, “Da 5 Bloods.”
It's Spike Lee, so you know there's plenty of gravitas, and maybe,
occasionally, self-righteous overload.
One way or another, it's going to be about the black experience in
America----if not an outright history lesson, then at least the evident
5 black men serve in Vietnam together, in the worst part of the
war, the jungle fighting. The
squad leader, Norman (Chadwick Boseman) is the one who holds them
together. He's ferocious in a
firefight, and he takes care of his men.
He's a leader whom they all respect.
He calls them all “The Bloods,” and keeps emphasizing their
bonds of brotherhood. And
then, as quickly as a spent bullet, he's gone.
KIA. And the rest
return, carrying on as best they can, with varying manifestations of PTSD.
Fast-forward to the present. The
four remaining guys stage a reunion. When
they first meet, there's a lot of back-slapping and whoops and big smiles.
But quickly it turns more serious.
They want to go back to Nam together not just to retrieve the
remains of their fallen buddy, Norman.
They also want to see if they can find the hidden gold.
Yep, from that mission where they found the crashed CIA plane with
the bullion. If they can walk
back into the jungle to retrieve the treasure, they'll all be rich.
And, in their estimations, they all deserve it.
Of course, nothing is simple, or easy.
One of the guys finds his long-lost Saigon sweetheart, and does she
have a surprise for him. Another
guy's grown son turns up, worried about him, and winds up going on the
expedition with them, but not before connecting with a French group of
do-gooders who seek to defuse bombs and mines that still scourge the
Spike Lee makes an interesting directorial decision to flashback to
the old Vietnam, but utilizing the guys in their present advanced age,
except for Norman, of course, who never aged.
Mr. Lee also decides to make his characters more profane and
raw-edged than well-mannered and courteous, so expect the vituperative
dialogue, and the frequent conversational invectives.
But there's no denying the emotional impact that the film delivers,
even as good intentions fall apart and old alliances disintegrate.
And Vietnam remains the focus of
much that is tragic and dissonant in our cultural memories.