Spike Lee’s latest film opens with a powerful montage of a time where the Civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam were being fought at the same time, a war-torn America. Lee makes sure his voice is heard from the outset, in a time where the fight against equality could not be more relevant, even after 50 years these problems within society still occur.
The film itself is a heist film of sorts. Four Vietnam veterans are returning to the country that haunts them to exhume their leader’s body, but there is more at play here. A hunt for gold commences, but there are never treasure hunts without problems. For a time you think this could be the one time but it very quickly heads south. The power of gold takes hold, outside influences get involved and people get hurt.
Filled with unexpected moments, the minefield in particular. Things happen that you just don’t expect. The scene in question manages to build tension in such a way that you just can’t take your eyes away, pulling you right into the moment itself, but this tension doesn’t occur throughout. Spike Lee uses a variation of flashbacks to show the situations these men went through. Unusually there was no de-aging used, it almost felt like the characters were reliving trauma through their now older minds, which affected some more than others.
Fighting trauma and what seemed like his own demons was Paul (Delroy Lindo). You’d see him as the leader, but his unstable nature poured through. He was constantly on edge, returning to this place jogged a trauma he couldn’t escape from. At one point there is a whole scene where he breaks the fourth wall, directly looking into the camera, speaking his mind out loud, an unstable mess, then you find out why.
From the start, the actors bring a certain amount of energy to the relationships between these characters. You have 4 men, who clearly haven’t seen each other in a while, they seem excited to return, or is it just to see each other. They’re having fun together, dad dancing through a club, with a clear homage to ‘Apocalypse Now’, but this tone doesn’t continue throughout. Their moods change, their friendship gets tested to the maximum.
Spike Lee has created a film that has plenty of social commentary, whether it is obvious or not. He has worked it into this engaging storyline, that has it’s unexpected and tense moments, all the while using a variety of different techniques to fill this out and make it feel whole.