As the daughter of a Vietnam Vet, I remember clearly the excitement of waking my father up to play with while on leave from the Corps (USMC). One day, I briefly shook up him and slowly that excitement turned to horrific fear when my father jumped up and began choking me. Embarrassed and not quite understanding what had just happened, he rapidly let me go. This story is not uncommon for many soldiers who haven’t had the proper time to decompress from all the mental anguish and uncontrollable reflexes of being in the the jungle fighting for their lives, comrades and the American citizens they have vowed to protect. What’s worse is that my Mom had no idea the trauma Daddy experienced was that deep rooted in his psyche.
When you see the late Muhammad Ali stating during a press conference’ why he refused to serve in the war, “…my conscious won’t let me shoot my brother,” you immediately recognize that this is not your usual Spike Lee film. Having just taken home the Oscar for Black KKKlansman, Lee’s ‘Da 5 Bloods‘ examines with great precision the Vietnam war from a Black American G.I. point of view wrapped in the story of five vets vowing to find and return their comrade and his remains stateside. Spike Lee Joint’s are always right on time. In the midst of the human race going through the PTSD of a global pandemic and police brutality against unarmed black and brown men becoming more commonplace than ever, this story addresses a moment in time that is painful and laden with so many layers of stuff.
Previously in Hollywood, we have seen Black men as supporting characters and not at the forefront of the main plot. We also have never seen Vietnamese people as allies to Americans or how the women G.I.’s leave behind struggle with being a single Mom to a mixed race kid in a predominantly Asian country where Americans aren’t necessarily smiled upon. Spike Lee has changed all of that.
Not to mention that each ‘blood’ is not without their issues. Paul (Delroy Lindo), the last of the Black Republicans (sporting a MAGA hat) suffers from PTSD and his son David (Jonathan Majors) have a strained relationship at best. Otis (Clarke Peters) has a secret personal agenda for returning to ‘Nam. Eddie (Norm Lewis) is perpetrating a life of wealth and prestige. Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr) is the one with the quick comebacks and keeps them all in line emotionally. There is not one weak link in these performances. These brothas’, all in different stages of career, age and life are bringing it all to the screen and it works spectacularly. It fondly reminds me how my Dad his Marine Corps buddies have interacted with each over the years.
Lee (in numerous interviews) referenced the Walter Terry book, “Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans” as one of the source materials for the script and his stars praised Lee’s encouragement of reading this same book for research. Being a child when the American War went down, Lee vividly remembers this not being a subject ever addressed when he was a student. So, his eagerness to procure this project derived out of pure historical correctiveness. Not surprised. Spike Lee is not one to bite his tongue when it comes to the careless manner in which the history of Black Americans has been handled in this country. Remember when he was adamant about directing Malcolm X instead of Norman Jewison. Look how wonderful THAT turned out!
Again, as the daughter of a Marine and having to continuously live through the PTSD of my father and his exposure to Agent Orange, words can not begin to express gratitude. On behalf of me and Daddy. Thanks Spike. Da 5 Bloods begins streaming exclusively on Netflix on June 12th.