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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee's first film made for Netflix. While the heart of the story takes place in current day, flashbacks, historical documents, newsreel footage, and photographs augment Lee's powerful exploration of war and race over half a century. African American veterans of the Vietnam war return to Ho Chi Mihn City nearly 50 years after its end. Old business calls the friends together: the retrieval of their beloved team leader's body and a secret mission that could be as dangerous as their months at war on the same killing ground decades earlier. Violence, emotional conflict, and mature themes are fundamental to the movie. Viewers can expect bloody and brutal images, horrendous battles, violent deaths from all manner of weaponry (i.e., machine guns, grenades, minefields, stabbing). Among iconic news clips and images from the Vietnam War, one photograph shows a naked child running to escape war violence. Nearly continuous profanity includes "s--t," "ass," "p---y," "c--k," and countless uses of "f--k." Ethnic slurs (i.e., "coon," the "N" word) are heard frequently. Characters drink alcohol (some drunkenness) and characters use opioids for pain. Some stereotypes of Vietnamese people. This movie isn't for kids.
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What's the story?
DA 5 BLOODS are African American "blood brothers" who fought side by side in Vietnam. One of them, team leader "Stormin' Norman" (Chadwick Boseman), was left behind. The remaining four: Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), and Eddie (Norm Lewis) return to Vietnam nearly 50 years later, ostensibly to bring Norman's body home. Secretly, it's more than Norm's body they're searching for. The "bloods" also hope to recover a treasure of illegally confiscated gold bars that they buried during the war. After a joyful reunion in Ho Chi Mihn City, the group plans to sell the gold if they find it. To that end, they partner reluctantly with the sketchy Desroche (Jean Reno), a corrupt Frenchman. The four friends are then joined by Paul's son, David (Jonathan Majors), now "the 5th blood." Their journey into the familiar but dangerous jungle in which they soldiered so many years earlier begins.
Is it any good?
Delroy Lindo leads a stellar cast in this genre-bending film: taut adventure story, historical documentary, and Shakespearean tragedy with a flawed hero who delivers a powerful soliloquy. Spike Lee breaks rules in most of his films. His weightiness and acclaim over the years let him call the shots. Some folks may not like the way he defies norms in Da 5 Bloods. He interjects newsreel footage, racial facts and figures, and diverting flashbacks in unexpected places. He uses the same aging actors in their roles as young men without worrying that it may distract. He isn't concerned that it took his heroes five decades to return to Vietnam.
Even naysayers will have to admit, however, that Delroy Lindo's electrifying performance is reason enough to see this emotionally impactful film. When Do the Right Thing was released in 1989, it was both a critical and commercial success, but its underlying anger was controversial. Over time that anger became prophetic. Now, the release of Da 5 Bloods couldn't be more relevant. Historical upheaval began to give truth to Lee's messages before he even finished his final cut.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Da 5 Bloods. Was it exciting or upsetting (or both)? Did it seem gratuitous or justifiable? If you believe it was for a purpose, what emotions do you think the filmmaking team was hoping to evoke with the graphic scenes and disturbing images from past and present?
The character of Paul is nuanced and complex. In what ways is he a hero? A victim? An aggressor? In spite of his behavior (and fury), is he sympathetic? How did the movie show the cultural factors that impacted Paul's evolution?
In some movies, the setting for the story often becomes a "character" in that story -- an integral part of the plot. How were both Ho Chi Minh City and the jungles outside of the city characters in this film? Could it have been set (and photographed) anywhere else? Why or why not?
Spike Lee brings a strong viewpoint to his films. What do you think his intentions were in Da 5 Bloods: to entertain, persuade, or inspire, or a combination of some or all of them? Was he successful? Were you aware of his emotional connection to the issues he explores before you saw this film?
- On DVD or streaming: June 12, 2020
- Cast: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors
- Director: Spike Lee
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Activism, Friendship, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Courage, Empathy, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 154 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, grisly images, and pervasive language
- Last updated: December 10, 2020
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