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Every now and then, there is a movie that sticks with you far after the credits. With the overload of content we’ve gotten for the first half of the year, there isn’t much to keep your attention on the screen. Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (streaming on Netflix) is a breath of fresh air that couldn’t have come at a better time. Lee’s signature cinematography paired with the gruesome reality of Black Vietnam veterans, creates a beautiful mess that you can’t take your eyes off of.
The plot of the movie is simple, but the messages speak volumes. Black Vietnam soldiers have become our fathers, grandfathers, and uncles, which allowed viewers to connect with the group of friends on the screen. The story flashes between present day and war times as the melodies of Marvin Gaye float on top. As many remember Gaye’s voice as a gift to us all, his life was taken by his own father. This tragic story mirrors the experience of Black Americans who have sacrificed their lives. As the country benefits from the labor, culture, and efforts of Black people, the same country kills and dehumanizes the community.
Marvin Gaye’s voice is a steady reminder of the struggles the five “bloods” faced and continue to battle. More musical references are made as the names of the main characters match the members of the Temptations. Paul, Otis, Eddie, Melvin, Paul’s son David, and the late Norman’s relationship can be compared to a thriving singing group- brotherly and dysfunctional.
While they have their differences, they all feel the burden of not being accepted anywhere. Not in the country they fought in, or the country they fought for. Everywhere they turn in the movie, the group is met with racial slurs and microaggressions. As they travel back to a jungle to find their deceased troop leader Norman (who shares the name of the Temptations’ producer) and buried bars of gold, their story is told through a series of fictional and historic flashbacks.
Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King Jr. are featured while Norman breaks down his ideas of America. The flashbacks feel like vivid memories for this group of soldiers as they struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Simple fireworks or approaching Vietnam natives causes them to duck for cover or retaliate. Unfortunately, the mental battle these fictional characters fight, is often seen in the veterans that are still with us. Thousands of Black soldiers have struggled to reenter society while white soldiers are praised for their contributions.
The group references Black soldiers that many have never heard of. Norman, who is the first person killed in the group, talks about Crispus Attucks who was a former slave and the first American colonist killed in the American Revolution. Early in the film, Melvin remembers Milton Olive III who sacrificed his life by covering a grenade and later received the Medal of Honor. His decision would later hold significance in the movie when Melvin takes the same action.
As the soldiers reminisce on the efforts of their fictional counterparts, it leaves the audience to wonder about the other heroic stories that were left untold. If you’re fortunate enough, some of those stories are a phone call away.
Even as the characters tried to find their place in the world, they were still met with racial challenges. Paul, the hot-headed group member, loses his wife to childbirth and is left raising their son on his own. His story is similar to so many African Americans as Black women are more likely to die while delivering a baby than white women. Their internal challenges don’t stop there as some of them have run into financial, medical, and some would say political issues.
In a powerful monologue performed by Delroy Lindo, an important theme of forgiveness is presented. Lindo’s character Paul carries some of the heaviest impacts of their time at war. Taunted by nightmares, he struggles to forgive himself for an action he can never get back. It isn’t until he is alone in the jungle, with the weight of the world on his back – or in his backpack- that he is able to come to terms with reality. Before his moment of peace, Lindo stares down the camera and releases every emotion his character has kept in. In his monologue he unpacks his disdain for his son, how he’s dealing with an illness he was diagnosed with after his third tour, and how life has continued to beat him down.
With every explanation of hurt, the healing comes shortly after. By the time he is met by the ghost of Norman, Paul has faced everything he was afraid to before. Through his character arc, an important lesson is emphasized. If you don’t let the weight go, it will continue to weigh you down.
As the two-and-a-half-hour-long movie comes to an end, the gold they buried in the jungle is dispersed to multiple causes including the Black Lives Matter Movement. While only one of the original Bloods lives, the ending brings attention to a line repeated in the film, “Bloods don’t die, we multiply.” The common African American phrase speaks to the nature of the Black experience. After fighting in wars, slaving, being killed in the street, and constantly beat down, African Americans have continued to grow stronger with each hardship.
It goes without question that Da 5 Bloods on Netflix is a must see. Spike Lee incorporates his standard font and floating characters into this compelling story of five men surviving in a world that was designed for them to die. Although the movie is perfectly timed and not a minute too long, the story doesn’t have to end when the credits roll. There are more stories to tell, voices to amplify, and souls to heal.
“America never was America to me, and yet I swear this oath, America will be.”
If you like Spike Lee movies or learning about the African American experience, share this article with a friend.
AfterBuzz TV is in full support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Make sure to share this article with a friend to keep the names of Floyd and other innocent Black people alive.
Toree Weaver is an AfterBuzz TV host with a passion for glamour and kingdoms. When she isn’t modeling or dancing, she can be found binge watching shows from Gossip Girl to Game of Thrones.
Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence
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