“After you’ve been in a war, you understand that it never really ends.” This line from the movie Da 5 Bloods perfectly encapsulates the idea that award-winning director Spike Lee wanted to portray in his new film. Never one to shy away from controversial issues and ideas, Lee has brilliantly woven a narrative made from remnants of the past and unspoken yet glaring truths at present. In fact, Netflix couldn’t have released it at a more perfect time—during the week where the protests and rallying cries of people around the world for the Black Lives Matter movement were at its peak. Looking at it side by side, it’s no wonder why people nowadays believe that history actually repeats itself.
The film follows the “Bloods”—Paul, Mel, Eddie, Otis, and their deceased friend Norman—a brotherhood forged during the Vietnam War, at a time when Black soldiers were forced to fight for a war that wasn’t theirs. As part of a pact they made to each other in the past, the Bloods ventured into an expedition in the Vietnamese jungle where they, literally and figuratively, dug up something from their past: the bars of gold they found while fighting in the war, and Norman’s remains. But digging up their past took a toll on Paul more than the others; somewhere along the way, their brotherhood was tested, even questioned. But beyond the façade of friendship, Lee wanted the audience to delve deeper into a buried truth that continues to haunt society at large—that race still matters, so long as resentment from the past continues to linger at present.
It is apparent that, in some way, the film is also a love letter to the Black community: throughout the film, the contributions of some Black historical figures were mentioned, and six songs by Marvin Gaye were featured over the course of its running time. But along with Lee’s desire for the Black community to be more recognized globally comes bitter resentment against the oppression done to them in the past, which continues today in the form of passive racism. From the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., all the way to the present, where prejudice and antagonism still exists against their community, Lee makes it clear that war is never truly over. From the superb script to the exceptional performances, especially of Delroy Lindo as Paul, the viewers truly get a glimpse not only of the individual struggles of the Bloods, but also of Black people as a whole.
It comes as no surprise why Paul constantly casts suspicion and antagonism to those around him—the world has been prejudiced against Black people from the start. However, to Lee’s credit, he also presented, although briefly, the past that the Vietnamese recognized, of Americans murdering innocent Vietnamese men, women, and children. It shed light to an even bigger picture: that the devastation brought by war continues to reverberate even until today, and its bitterness is still palpable to its victims. But despite its dark undertones, the film offers a ray of hope—forgiveness and acceptance.
Despite the hatred that has constantly driven people to war, it is only truly goodness that can put a stop to evil. Just as Martin Luther King Jr. remarked, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It is only when the characters experience forgiveness and acceptance that they can truly win; acceptance in recognizing that the past is unchangeable, and that forgiveness will set us free from the shackles of the past.
The range of emotions this film exudes will leave you at the edge of your seat; from laughter, sorrow, confusion, bitterness, anger, and finally, hope—that no amount of war and hatred can ever replace the bond of brotherhood.
Da 5 Bloods is now streaming on Netflix.