A bold preamble flashes up on screen announcing Quentin Tarantino's ninth film. It's a stark reminder that Mr T is competing with his own legacy. Can anything truly match the sheer brilliance of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction?
First cuts are often the deepest, but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood comfortably reaches the bar set so unreasonably high.
His customary attention to detail is forensic as 35mm film is used to frame a story set in 1969; exactly what have been in use at the time. Fictional characters are cleverly set against true events as they mingle with real people in a concurrent storyline.
Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a jobbing TV actor who fears the big movie roles have passed him by. He is consoled by Bounty Law; a long running Western where he plays the grizzled bad guy. Faithful wingman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is Rick's stunt double, best friend and confidante. Back in Beverley Hills Rick has new neighbours. Impossibly beautiful actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) has moved in with husband Roman Polanski. Rick is excited by the prospect and could be one pool party away from starring in a Polanski movie. If only he could actually meet them. Meanwhile, producer Harvey Schwarz (Al Pacino) is convinced he can reignite Rick's career with a spaghetti western.
It's a glorious fusion of genres; part western, buddy movie and homage to popular culture in the 1960s. Stylish and visually stunning, it bears the classic hallmarks of a Tarantino film. Maddening tangents, delightful cameos and set pieces all provide a compulsive mixture. Flashbacks are contained within the characters' psyche; they might be integral to the story or simply a diversion, providing light relief from the film's central theme. A liberal sprinkling of gallows humour keeps the script ticking over and a soundtrack sparkles with originality featuring some hidden gems, especially Neil Diamond’s Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show and Vanilla Fudge’s cover of You Keep Me Hangin’ on.
Sharon Tate is synonymous with Charles Manson and Tarantino weaves an irresistible plot around a wealth of possibilities. Cliff makes a vital connection when the seductive Pussycat leads him to a hippy commune of Manson followers. The finale is chaotic and dazzling in equal measure; you will be picking your jaw up from the floor.
This is a superior film and sits comfortably in the top three Tarantino films. It would just be plain wrong to give it anything less than the full monty.
Watch the movie trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood below.