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George At 

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Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee has become one of my favorite filmmakers and DA 5 BLOODS delivers another powerful film as follow up to his brilliant "Black Kkklansman".

In scope, its perhaps his biggest film since "Malcolm X" and certainly his most ambitious shoot. His globe hopping camera at times making this feel more like Coppola than Lee.

Rather than Coppola's journey to track down Colonel Kurtz in the jungle, Spike Lee delivers a compelling, huge scale tale of 5 Vietnam Vets reuniting in Vietnam to track down the body of their fallen fellow soldier. Their goal is to return Stormin' Norman's body stateside.

It's quite a group. Paul (a brilliant Delroy Lindo) is a passionate Trump Supporter that still carries a lot of passion against the people of Vietnam. Otis (Clarke Peters) has organized the reunion & trip to recover Norman through his lifelong Vietnamese mistress Tien. Eddie (Broadway veteran Norm Lewis) is a successful car dealer whose always got his Black Amex in hand, ready to buy. Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr) is the peacemaker of the group, which turns out to be a full time job with these personalities.

Lee lulls you into comfort with the early scenes of the reunion and the quintet's visit to a crowded, fun Vietnam night club called Apocalypse Now.

You start to gear up for an interpersonal drama as these unique men meld again. But they're not only there to recover Norman. They are also back in country to recover a huge stash of gold that they buried after a fire fight with CIA led rebels. Having carried that secret carefully for years, the truth and their different justifications for the money spiral quickly.

Paul's son David (the terrific Jonathan Majors of "Lovecraft Country") arrives in Vietnam, worried about his Dad and determined to join the quest.

Just as you begin to ease into their search, Lee starts to intersperse flashbacks to their last time in Vietnam. In two daring choices, Lee doesn't cast different actors as the younger men, having the older actors portray themselves in the Vietnam war era. Lee also shrinks the picture down to a square TV ratio during the flashbacks. His smooth expansion from widescreen to square eases you in and out of time, pulling us deeper and deeper into the events that deeply influence what's happening to them today.

Chadwick Boseman is powerful in the flashbacks as Norman, the squad leader than set their moral compass in the early 60's.

Lee also introduces us to a local guide for the mission, Vihn (Johnny Nguyen) and a group of young French and Americans searching to build awareness on land mines. The team includes Hedy (a superb Melanie Thierry) and Simon (Paul Walter Hauser who recently played "Richard Jewell").

As he did in "Black Kkklansman" so efficiently, Lee also weaves in historical footage of the Vietnam War, much of it graphic, gory and unrelenting in its depiction of the conflict. He also weaves in quick or lingering glimpses of Black America in the 60's & & 70's in both Vietnam and the USA. It's always perfectly timed, sometimes shocking and disturbing.

At over two and a half hours, it's a bit disjointed but in challenging ways. For me, it never dragged.

The war scenes are very well staged, as are the incredibly tense scenes in the jungle as the men face of against each other's past and present.

Delroy Lindo is a sure-fire Best Actor nominee as Paul, a man so tortured by his past and buried in his right-saying that he's impossible to penetrate. Lindo bares all, crying out sometimes in silence and very loudly in one memorable scene as he walks away across the jungle. As his grip on the situation begins to slip, Lindo looks directly into the camera, spilling his guts in long passages of dialogue that tear you apart. He's fantastic in the role, powerful.

Lee bathes the whole film in the music of Marvin Gaye, sometimes in very unexpected ways.

The cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel (Drive, Three Kings, The Usual Suspects) is excellent.

Film lovers will discover many direct ties to "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Apocalypse Now".

Loaded with graphic war violence, profanity and tension, this isn't going to be to everyone's taste.

If there is a more thought provoking director, firing on all cylinders at a higher rate than Spike Lee at this time in his career, I'm anxious to know who they are.

Boseman and Lindo's last scene together will tear you apart.

DA 5 BLOODS gets a soul stirring A.

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