Spike Lee’s films always make the audience ponder how the content reflects on current events. One of his most iconic and impactful films, “Do The Right Thing” from 1989, touched on police brutality. Since Lee's early days as a director, his films have brought awareness to issues surrounding race relations, colorism and the threat of white supremacy. His work consistently shows the connection between the horrors of the past and today.
Lee’s latest film, “Da 5 Bloods,” is the newest addition to Netflix’s Black Lives Matter Collection, which also includes some of Lee’s earlier theatrical masterpieces, “She’s Gotta Have It” and “School Dayz.” “Da 5 Bloods” centers on America’s war in Vietnam, especially from a minority perspective, with the “Bloods” in the film’s title referring to an expression of camaraderie among Black soldiers that was often used at the time.
But the movie also touches on other moments of Black history in America. The film opens with clips and images of the 1970 Jackson State police killings, the Black Power expression at the 1968 Olympics, demonstrators being clubbed by police at the 1968 Democratic Convention, and the 1969 planting of the American flag during the first manned moon landing.
It is nearly impossible to see the images displayed in the film’s introduction and conclusion and not think of their relevance today. That is what I found so impactful about this film. Scenes of the movie’s four main characters in Vietnam touch on opioids, interracial romance, financial depression and post-traumatic stress.
Lee has proved himself over and over to be more than just a filmmaker; he is a historian and social commentator as well. The history of racial tension in the United States is often misconstrued, but Lee is one to retell the truth from a fresh perspective. With speeches from Angela Davis, Malcolm X, President Nixon and President Johnson, “Da 5 Bloods” provides a history overdose disguised in an action-adventure package.
The plot of the 154-miniute movie is a fairly sad journey of four Black Vietnam veterans on an expedition back to the land where they had once spent much memorable and haunting time in order to collect a treasure they found many years before. The treasure hunt is both incredibly intense and aesthetically pleasing, as the characters search through lush and dense Vietnamese jungles littered with active landmines.
This film is a heavy load to the mind and the heart. It is best watched with a dark blanket to pull over your head to hide from scenes of violence, and with a big bowl of popcorn to mindlessly eat while entranced by the Vietnamese scenery (filmed on location).
I challenge readers to use some of this allotted time at home, due to necessary physical distancing measures, to watch a Spike Lee film. Or better yet, all of them (with viewer discretion, as his films often contain colorful language and icky violence).
• Mary-Frances Ballew is an incoming senior at Selah High School.