Opinion: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino at his best

OPINION: I'll be honest, when I first heard Tarantino's latest film would cover the murder of Sharon Tate by Charles Manson's cult, my first response was a nervous squirm.

I wasn't sure I needed to see real killers, already frequently fetishised in media, given the Kill Bill treatment. Particularly since when it comes to violence, Tarantino doesn't so much twist the knife as lick the blade.  

I am happy to report, I have never been more wrong. If you love Tarantino, go watch this movie. If you hate Tarantino, still go and watch this movie. 

While the killing on August 9, 1969 casts a long shadow, most of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's runtime is a life-affirming love letter to cinema and a bygone age of America. 

This isn't a movie focused on hatred, vengeance or ultra violence and it's much better for it. By the time the credits rolled I was nostalgic for a place I've never been and a time I wasn't alive. 

Once Upon a Time has all of Tarantino's hallmarks: sharp dialogue, kinetic action and an electric soundtrack, but without the cynical edge of Death Proof or The Hateful Eight.  

Tarantino veterans Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio lead the cast as an actor and stunt double duo, Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth.   

Dalton (DiCaprio) is a fading movie star frequently moved to tears, either by the power of his own performance or anxiety about his next scene. He's pathetic, endearingly earnest and hilarious.

Cliff (Pitt) is Dalton's stoic stunt double who essentially acts as butler after the stunt work starts drying up, doing everything from fixing things around the actor's house to driving him between auditions.

In a more boring film there'd be a subplot of resentment between the two men but there's only uncomplicated affection, as the film describes it "more than a brother and less than a wife". 

Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, and does so with such a wide-eyed joyousness that knowing her eventual fate makes her every scene especially poignant. The violence, when it does arrive, is as confronting as you expect but handled in such a surprising way that you won't be left cold or numb. 

True to its title, Once Upon A time in Hollywood is first and foremost a fairy tale. An infectiously good natured film that shines with its director's love of his medium. 

If the rumours are true and Tarantino will soon retire, I'm glad to see him bow out with a smile instead of a sneer. 

Finn Hogan is the host of NerdsPLUS, Newshub's pop-culture discussion podcast.