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The ending of Da 5 Bloods explained

Contains spoilers for Da 5 Bloods

Netflix has been landing top tier filmmakers for its original features for a while now, but any new film from legendary director Spike Lee is worthy of notice. Now feels like the right moment to hear from Lee with a follow-up to 2018's outstanding BlacKkKlansman, and Da 5 Bloods does not disappoint.

Lee's war drama stars Delroy Lindo (The Good Fight), Clarke Peters (The Wire, Treme), Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country), Norm Lewis (Scandal) and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (The Wire, Seneca) as a group of geriatric Vietnam vets who take a bucket list trip back to Southeast Asia to search out the remains of their KIA unit commander as well as a massive fortune in treasure that they buried while serving. What might play as a hokey treasure hunt in the hands of a lesser filmmaker becomes a brooding character drama in the capable hands of Lee, who's at the absolute top of his game chronicling this all-black unit as they journey into the heart of darkness to claim their due; it's a film that demands to be seen. 

Like most of Lee's oeuvre, Da 5 Bloods explores themes of race, oppression, exploitation and heroism with a historical backdrop that prioritizes the epistemology of lived experience. The resulting film is about as layered and complex as you might imagine, so it's no surprise that it takes a little unpacking to get at Lee's argument.

The vets find their gold in Da 5 Bloods, but it comes at a great price

Netflix released Da 5 Bloods on June 12, 2020, and ever since that debut it's enjoyed broad viewership, which means there must be a lot of people out there right now contemplating its bloody ending.

The film begins with four men from the First Infantry Division of the US Army. Paul (Lindo), Otis (Peters), Eddie (Lewis), and Melvin (Whitlock Jr.) set out for Vietnam to find the treasure they left there as well as the remains of their fallen commander, Stormin' Norman (Chadwick Boseman). Paul's son David (Majors) follows the crew without his father's consent and ends up tagging along for the entire treasure hunt, despite the other mens' insistence that he shouldn't share in any of the spoils.

Once in Vietnam, the hunters meet with a sketchy French dude named Desroche (Jean Reno) who arranges to buy the hidden gold once it's found, thus setting the film in motion. Desroche is an important figure in the film's final act, since it's ultimately his plan to double-cross the men of the First Infantry Division that leads to the stunning finale.

The crew ultimately discovers the gold, but that discovery costs them dearly. Eddie is the first to die on screen when he steps on a landmine in the jungle. After that, Desroche makes his move, initiating the film's final bloodbath. Desroche's men capture Paul and — in a grisly turn of events — force him to dig his own grave. They use this psychological torture as a way to pressure Paul into revealing the location of the gold. Paul stands tall in the face of this interrogation, and is ultimately killed for his refusal to cooperate.

The men of the First make altruistic use of their treasure in Da 5 Bloods

When Desroche himself confronts the remaining members of the First, Otis tricks him by handing over a bag filled with rocks that he passes off for gold. A shootout ensues after the deception is discovered. Desroche's men are killed, but Otis is wounded. Desroche moves to finish the job with a hand grenade, but in an extraordinary act of self-sacrifice, Melvin jumps on top of the grenade, saving Otis and David. Confounded by Melvin's heroism, Desroche lashes out at Otis, but David saves the day by shooting the duplicitous businessman with Otis' weapon.

It all happens awfully quickly, but by the end Otis and David are the only original treasure hunters left standing. The film's real emotional punch lands when we learn how the proceeds of this expedition are ultimately allocated. Melvin's share goes back home to his widow, while a donation is made in Eddie's name to Black Lives Matter. Otis takes his money back to Tiên, a former lover from Hanoi, and his half-Vietnamese daughter — the implication being that he will begin to foster a relationship with his newly discovered family.

David keeps his Paul's share, but more importantly he reads a letter in which his estranged father finally tells him he loves him.