NEW YORK – In the jungle of Spike Lee’s sprawling and anguished “Da 5 Bloods,” Delroy Lindo’s titanic performance as a Vietnam veteran rises to a ferocious, even Shakespearean pinnacle.
Lee’s film, now streaming on Netflix, follows four African American veterans who decades later return to Vietnam to find the remains of their fallen squad leader (Chadwick Boseman) and lost gold. Lindo plays Paul, the most tragic figure of the bunch, a soldier haunted by PTSD. Mangled by disappointment, xenophobia and rage, he has turned into a supporter of Donald Trump and wears a “Make American Great Again” hat.
In Lindo's intense performance, “Da 5 Bloods” turns almost mythic in its deconstruction of African American history in U.S. combat and in war films. For the 67-year-old Lindo, it's a mountain-peak performance in a career, first established on the stage, that began with a trio of films with Lee (1992’s “Malcolm X,” 1994’s “Crooklyn” and 1995’s “Clockers”).
Lindo's gravity has long been felt in roles large and small, from “Get Shorty” to “Heist,” but “Da 5 Bloods” gives Lindo one of his fullest showcases. If there's Oscar buzz this year, he'll have it.
“I am deeply proud of this work,” Lindo said in a recent phone interview from the Bay Area home he shares with his wife and 18-year-old son.
Lindo built his performance on research, meeting with two cousins who served and a number of Vietnam vets. He reread the oral history of African Americans in the Vietnam War, “Bloods,” and watched the 1974 documentary “Hearts and Minds.” And he attempted to funnel centuries of pain for black American soldiers into a colossal, larger-than-life character.
Lindo felt the role closely enough that, in an interview, he sometimes drifted into referring to his character as himself. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
AP: It had been 25 years since you worked with Spike. Did you notice anything different about him?