Martin Scorsese is probably considered America's greatest living filmmaker. He's been around forever, he's made some great movies, he is a valuable contributor to film preservation and to the history of world cinema.
Spike Lee, even now, is arguably America's most underrated living filmmaker. Do the Right Thing is his greatest, but there's also Inside Man, and both parts of his documentary on Katrina are exemplary. 25th Hour, Summer of Sam, Clockers ... it's an impressive filmography.
According to Zach Sharf, "Netflix was willing to give Martin Scorsese over $150 million on 'The Irishman' in order to de-age actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, but the streaming giant was reportedly more apprehensive when it came to allowing Spike Lee to shoot on 16mm film for 'Da 5 Bloods.'"
The idea to shoot the flashback scenes on 16mm was [cinematographer Newton Thomas] Sigel’s. Those sequences were originally intended to be shot on a different format before Sigel pitched to Lee an idea to shoot the Vietnam sequences using the kind of camera and film stock that would have been available during the Vietnam era. It was a winning pitch, as Sigel explained, “I think what really sold Spike on it was that this is what would have been used if a crew was there in Vietnam shooting during the war.”
It's the kind of care that helps give Da 5 Bloods a unique look, but also a smart and appropriate look.
Da 5 Bloods is Spike Lee at his best. Some of the dialogue is a bit too on the mark, but for the most part, the extended social context for what we see is effectively blended with the heist film. There are obvious homages to movies like Apocalypse Now and Three Kings, and I loved the stinkin' badges making an appearance. All of the actors are at the top of their game, which is worth mentioning because Delroy Lindo is on another level entirely and I fear the others will be lost in the deserved acclaim for Lindo. And, of course, Isiah Whitlock Jr. works in the catchphrase that he first spoke in an earlier Spike Lee movie:
But it's Lindo's show, and he makes the most of it. Da 5 Bloods is the best movie from 2020 that I have seen so far.
[Letterboxd list of the 2020 movies I've seen.]