AP (Aruba Today) reviews Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods and interviews Delroy Lindo, British actor and theater director, whose family hails from Jamaica.
In the jungle of Spike Lee’s sprawling and anguished “Da 5 Bloods,” Delroy Lindo’s titanic performance as a Vietnam veteran rises to a ferocious, even Shakespearean pinnacle.
Lee’s film, now streaming on Netflix, follows four African American veterans who decades later return to Vietnam to find the remains of their fallen squad leader (Chadwick Boseman) and lost gold. Lindo plays Paul, the most tragic figure of the bunch, a soldier haunted by PTSD. Mangled by disappointment, xenophobia and rage, he has turned into a supporter of Donald Trump and wears a “Make American Great Again” hat.
In Lindo’s intense performance, “Da 5 Bloods” turns almost mythic in its deconstruction of African American history in U.S. combat and in war films. For the 67-year-old Lindo, it’s a mountain-peak performance in a career, first established on the stage, that began with a trio of films with Lee (1992’s “Malcolm X,” 1994’s “Crooklyn” and 1995’s “Clockers”).
Lindo’s gravity has long been felt in roles large and small, from “Get Shorty” to “Heist,” but “Da 5 Bloods” gives Lindo one of his fullest showcases. If there’s Oscar buzz this year, he’ll have it. “I am deeply proud of this work,” Lindo said in a recent phone interview from the Bay Area home he shares with his wife and 18-year-old son.
Lindo built his performance on research, meeting with two cousins who served and a number of Vietnam vets. He reread the oral history of African Americans in the Vietnam War, “Bloods,” and watched the 1974 documentary “Hearts and Minds.” And he attempted to funnel centuries of pain for black American soldiers into a colossal, larger-than-life character. Lindo felt the role closely enough that, in an interview, he sometimes drifted into referring to his character as himself. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
AP: It had been 25 years since you worked with Spike. Did you notice anything different about him?
Lindo: He first called me when I was in the car. He said some things that really moved me in terms of his respect for me, his regard for me. That was different. I have to say that there were disagreements that we had. I’m not going to tell you exactly what they were, but there were a couple of bumpy moments when we disagreed about a couple things, a couple very, very important things. But, A, we were able to move on and, B, he apologized. That for me was a manifestation of his regard for me creatively, as a creative worker. The overall experience was enhanced by the 20-plus years that had passed since we worked together. We’re both 25 years older but still on a similar track, creatively. [. . .]
AP: You’ve spoken about being particularly bothered by the depiction of black soldiers in “Platoon.” Why do you think African American veterans are so rarely seen in film?
Lindo: There is a tradition of black soldiers being marginalized at best, expurgated at worst. This film addresses that from the standpoint that we are front and center. We’re seeing the Vietnam experience through the lens of these brothers. It’s important from a historical point of view to tell these stories. I was born in England and my family is Caribbean. Both in World War I and World War II, Caribbean soldiers fought for the British, with the British, and generally speaking that contribution has been virtually expurgated. Generally, there’s this tradition of not focusing on us and our achievements and our contributions. [. . .]
For full interview, see https://www.arubatoday.com/delroy-lindo-on-his-titanic-performance-in-da-5-bloods2/