Da Five Bloods sees four African American war veterans return to Vietnam on a quest to find the remains of their fallen squad leader, and the gold fortune he helped them hide.

PAUL STEWARD reviews Da 5 Bloods - available on Netflix

Da Five Bloods sees four African American war veterans return to Vietnam on a quest to find the remains of their fallen squad leader, and the gold fortune he helped them hide.

Fresh from his best adapted screenplay Oscar for Blackkklansman, Spike Lee, working with his regular collaborator Kevin Willmott, returns to direct this absorbing drama for Netflix.

Based on an original script by Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson, actors Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock Jr. star as four friends and former GIs from the same unit. They return to Vietnam to hunt for the treasure they buried during the war and to recover the remains of their inspirational former squad leader Stormin’ Norman. (Played by Chadwick Boseman in the film’s many flashback scenes).

The film is an eclectic blend of drama and action/adventure mixed with Lee’s usual vein of political critique. In typically polemic style, the director begins with a montage of historic events and continues to drop powerful bursts of black history throughout the story.

You may also want to watch:

At two and a half hours, the film’s runtime is excessive, however Lee keeps things moving and never allows it to drag.

Da Bloods themselves are all thoroughly engaging characters, none more so than Lindo’s Paul, a grizzled Trump-supporting former soldier, full of rage at the way his life has turned out and clearly suffering from a form of PTSD.

The veteran actor, working with Spike Lee for the fourth time, is the beating heart of the film and delivers an incendiary performance which will be hard for Oscar voters to ignore.

Jonathan Majors adds an interesting dynamic to proceedings as Paul’s son David, who rarely sees eye to eye with his tough talking father.

The spectre of Boseman’s Norm looms large over proceedings as the film progresses and it becomes clear how vital he was to the men he commanded, and how much he helped shape them into the people they became.

“He taught us about black history, he was our Malcolm (X) and our Martin (Luther King)” comments Clarke Peters, Otis during one such reverie. Norm’s sad demise having clearly haunted the team ever since.

There is a rather disjointed feel to the way the film hangs together. The lack of budget for advanced de-ageing effects (As seen in Martin Scorsese’s the Irishman) means the flashback scenes featuring the younger Boseman alongside the much older actors takes some getting used to. However the film’s qualities are certainly enough to outweigh its faults.

Continuing the Spike Lee renaissance, Da Five Bloods is an inventive piece of work from one of Hollywood’s most important filmmakers. Enlightening, exciting and at times emotional. It doesn’t quite meet the very high bar set by Blackkklansman but it isn’t far off.