Some are more obvious than others. A Vietnamese dance club with the Apocalypse Now logo behind the DJ is clearly welcoming a comparison to Francis Ford Coppola‘s war epic. Enforcers showing up to yank gold from a fraying group of treasure hunters while cackling about badges is not exactly a subtle reference to The Treasure of Sierra Madre. But Spike Lee’s new movie Da 5 Bloods, co-written by Kevin Willmott, Danny Bilson, and Paul De Meo, has got people playing “spot the reference” this weekend.
In addition to the Apocalypse Now club, Da 5 Bloods tweaks the earlier movie’s famous Richard Wagner “Ride of the Valkyries” music cue. In the 1979 film it appears when Robert Duvall’s unit swoops in with a napalm strike on a village. (This scene also begat the line “Charlie Don’t Surf,” inspiring The Clash to record a song with that name a year later.) In Lee’s film, the use of the famous theme is something of a gag; while the journey the men take will grow in intensity, the music is set against an image of a relaxing boat ride.
That pleasurable cruise, however, soon grows intense, when Delroy Lindo suffers a PTSD flashback as vendors approach. Anyone who has seen Apocalypse Now will likely recall how a similar encounter quickly turned gruesome.
A line Clarke Peters says at a climactic moment is also precisely what someone says in The Bridge on the River Kwai (no spoilers!).
Vulture collected some additional thematic connections to classic cinema, and also gave context to some of the figures in the historical montages. They also caught that the five main characters share the same names as the members of The Temptations (Otis, Melville, Paul, Eddy, and David) and their deceased comrade, Norman, shares a name with their producer Norman Whitfield.
Slate noted that the time-hopping film actually has four distinct aspect ratios, not just two, and additionally found the urban legend source of one of the film’s most intense sequences. (And if it felt familiar, it is entirely possible you saw a previous telling starring Eriq La Salle in the seldom discussed HBO series Vietnam War Story from 1987.)
Twitter users are discovering additional connections, like this shot of Chadwick Boseman and how it rhymes with a famous image of Huey Newton.
Isiah Whitlock Jr. slips in his trademark expletive in the movie.
And of course, there’s also the famous Spike Lee people-mover shot.
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