Da 5 Bloods (2020) Review – Tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s Performance


Spike Lee is one of those filmmakers who just abstains from following any set pattern or play by the defined rules. His films are crude, raw but effective. He refuses to follow the known path which in turn helps him to create a very distinguished visual appearance, apparent in all his films. This is one of his most vocal and bold creations. It speaks volumes about the current state of affairs in the most creative manner that one can imagine.

Da 5 Bloods is a rebellion against the history itself. It’s a sine-wed remark on how history has been written, how the films have depicted it, and how today Trump referred to as “fake bone spurs” is just scrapping the old wounds. Spike lee reminds us that history is the narrative of the powerful. There is no place for the weak. The filmmaker makes a point by telling how black lives were used as a pawn in the game that America was playing. Black people were sent to fight a war that was not even theirs. They were sent to Vietnam to secure a win for America, but that would not change their own status quo in the country. During the same period, Martin Luther King jr. was shot, and there were millions who were facing racial inequalities throughout America. It was also the time when the movement of black lives matter was on its peak, a chunk of black soldiers were sent to Vietnam and were being used as cannon fodder.

Da 5 Bloods is the story of 4 war veterans who come back to Vietnam for two purposes. One to find the gold that they had hidden in the country during the war and secondly to find their fifth companion, who died on the battlefield.

Otis (Clarke Peters) assumes a position of authority, because of his innate leadership qualities. He is the most level headed person in the group and is also procuring a deal for the group in case they find the gold. He is the backbone of the mission providing all the logistics and intelligence for the mission.

Eddie played by Norm Lewis is the extravagant businessman, and has a somewhat materialistic approach towards things. Not much is told about Melvin and he assumes the role of second fiddle most of the time leaving the others to cater to the important issues. Then there is Paul. It would not be incorrect to say that it is one of the most adeptly written characters of recent times.

Da 5 Bloods also has an important character, Paul played by Delroy Lindo, who has imbibed the character to the minutest of details. Paul is a Trump supporter and he feels that entry of migrants in the United States should be stopped. He is a man who is pretty shaken up and broken from the inside. He was the closest to their dead companion, Norman. Things went a bit haywire for him post the death of his friend on the battlefield. His wife died giving birth to his son. Many times in the film, he has an outburst of profanity. He is always on the edge and deep down has a lot of inhibitions and fears that are slowly taking hold of him. He is suffering from PTSD and is carrying a lot of pain and regret with himself.

The troop is also accompanied by David who is Paul’s son. He is a school teacher and shares a complex bond with his father. His father blames him for the death of his mother. But still, he does not want to leave his father alone in the mission. And despite the harsh behavior of his father towards him he does not leaves his side.

Chadwick Boseman as Stormin Norman in Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods serves as an ode to the memory of our king Chadwick Boseman. The character of Norman is one through which the filmmaker makes a point and his most satirical remarks. The group refers to Norman as their history teacher. He taught them about black history even before it was a popular point of discussion among the intellectuals. As Otis tells David

“He was our Malcom and our Martin”

It was Norman who tells the group to hide the gold during the war. Norman feels that the gold could serve as compensation to all the Black lives lost. He feels that the gold is a sort of reparation to the oppression and racism the Black people have gone through. He knows that black lives do not matter to the administration and authorities and that is why they are just being used a pawn in the racist war.

Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods has a sense of authority in his performance and he gits into the role of a leader quite comfortably. It is as if spike lee wants to address greater issues through the character of Norman. And that is why it was very necessary that the person playing this character should establish his dominion over the other four members of the group and should be ready to take the charge in his hands. Chadwick Boseman imbibes these qualities with ease. He slips into the shoes of the character as if he actually resonates with the character in his real life. Spike Lee has shown the character as it is, in the scenes from the past.  There is no CGI done to make them feel young and even no makeup or other accessories are used. They are transported as it is in their present aged look. And that is why it was more important for Young Norman to have a shade of command in his aura so that it doesn’t feel odd. You believe him as much as his companions do when he says

“war is about money, money is about war”

Through his strong performance, Chadwick Boseman feels like an innate leader.

A Never-Ending War

Spike lee resonates with Shakespeare through his oratorical script and complex profanity driven characters. It is his writing that makes Paul in Da 5 Bloods, as one of the most intricate and complex characters. Paul is the epicenter of all the action. He is like a loose cannon ready to explode. Spike creates a sense of suspense and thrill through his on the edge characters and the turn of unexpected events. The film is a comment on the never-ending war that black lives are facing even now. History keeps repeating itself and Spike Lee never shy’s away in telling the American people that many George Floyd will keep dying in the years to come, and the cycle will keep repeating itself, if the people choose a reality T.V clown as a President.

Spike Lee’s screenplay weaves the idea of inequality and racism in a skillful manner and the words spoken through the characters will stay with the audience and will force them to rethink and reevaluate their rationales and mind-set.

“After you have been in a war you realize that it never really ends, whether it’s in your mind or in reality”

Da 5 Bloods directed by Spike Lee is Streaming on Netflix.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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