Reviews | Written by Nick Spacek 30/09/2020



Terence Blanchard’s score for Spike Lee’s Netflix Vietnam film Da 5 Bloods, is elegiac and beautiful. With a brass section which manages to sound evocative of myriad war films preceding it, while avoiding being militaristic - for the most part, although the drumming is certainly martial at times - this score is lush and vibrant, and stunningly subtle.

The contrast between the score and the soundtrack is stunning: given that so many of the needle drops featured in Lee’s Da 5 Bloods are era-specific political numbers, drawing strongly from Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, along with songs like the Chambers Brothers’ Time Has Come Today and Curtis Mayfield’s (Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below, We're All Going to Go, the rolling snare and swelling strings stand in stark counterpoint.

The score is also really quite sad. Blanchard’s compositions all sound like they’re mournful refrains, which is absolutely appropriate, given the film’s plot. For all the action and excitement, this is a tale of woe, loss, and remembrance. There’s a certain joy of reconnection at times, and when Blanchard hits that sweet spot of sad recognition, as in Find the Gold, there’s a sense of John Williams’ sweeping grandeur to be found.

That said, it’s all a little much of the same, in that Blanchard leans hard into the back-and-forth swing between sad elegy and martial strength, and the strings start to feel a little saccharine by the time the score has hit its midpoint. It’s lovely, but it’s going to the same well a few times too many.

Blanchard’s score for Da 5 Bloods comes as a double LP, pressed on 180-gram red vinyl, in a limited edition of 500 copies. The notes in the gatefold spread feature the complete orchestral ensemble, as well as credits and a few stills from the film, but there are unfortunately no notes from either the composer or the director. Given the pair’s longtime collaboration - going all the way back to 1991’s Jungle Fever - one would think that this movie, meditating as it does on old friends, would’ve motivated some musings on the parallels between their relationship and that of the film’s characters.