Spike Lee’s newest film, Da 5 Bloods, dances back and forth between Vietnam during the war, and contemporary times. It follows a small platoon of soldiers who buried gold during the conflict, and choose to return to Vietnam in present day to find the stash, and smuggle it out of the country. The gold isn’t the primary objective: These men are also paying tribute to their fallen leader (Chadwick Boseman), who died in combat.
As the movie seamlessly glides between past and present, though, something we normally see on screen changes. The actors hired by Spike Lee to play his five “Bloods” in the movie stay in character in the flashbacks, instead of being replaced by younger actors with striking resemblances. It’s not jarring in the least bit. In fact, it’s a welcome creative decision. And when CinemaBlend spoke with Da 5 Bloods cast about it, Delroy Lindo elaborated:
It felt right. … When I read the script, it was clearly written that in the flashback scenes, we would be, the four of us would be, the age that we are now. And what’s interesting about that conceit is that I didn’t miss a beat. It just felt right. In reading it, I didn’t stop and say, ‘Huh, how is that going to work?’ It just felt right in terms of how the script was written how the story was unfolding, and certainly when we got to the point where we were filming those scenes, it absolutely felt right.
Part of the reason why it felt right was [because] Chadwick arrived in Thailand maybe five weeks after the rest of us. We’d been working for five weeks or so before Chadwick showed up. And we had spent so much time talking about his character, Norm, that when he showed up and we started playing those flashback scenes, it was an added component of knowledge that we had about this man Norm that fed directly into how we could play in those scenes, and the appreciation that we all had for Norm in those flashback scenes. It just made sense to simply concentrate on playing the truth of the scene. And the fact that we are the same age as we are now, it just didn’t matter, it felt right.
It’s an excellent creative choice, and one I can’t recall seeing done that often (if ever before). There are distinct ways that Spike Lee lets the audience know that we are in the flashback. Usually it’s the involvement of Chadwick Boseman’s character, who we know from the get go is no longer with us. But giving this cast the chance to play the younger versions of their layered characters adds so much depth to the movie. Press play on this and listen to Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Norm Lewis elaborate on the director’s choice: