The Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer has finally dropped and it tells us a lot.

Quentin Tarantino is back with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the ninth film from the popular director. He blazed onto the scene with Reservoir Dogs in 1992, following it up with one of the very best films of the nineties, Pulp Fiction. Recently, the director has been exploring the western genre, delivering such phenomenal works as The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained, but it looks like he has finally decided to explore other avenues. Rather than tackling another genre, he’ll be commenting on the film industry itself with his latest. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the tale of declining TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and fellow stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they try and break through into the L.A. film scene in 1969. For a long time, many have speculated the extent to which the notorious Charles Manson and his cult will play in the narrative, as Tarantino is tackling some historical subject matter as well as original. The main concern has been how he will depict the brutal killing of the pregnant Sharon Tate, here portrayed by Margot Robbie. Fortunately, the trailer gives us an indication of what to expect. 

Firstly, the most notable aspect of the trailer is its lack of violence. When the project was announced, many immediately began to picture another hyper-bloody addition to the director’s oeuvre. Although this is only the first trailer, that isn’t the impression we get from this at all; the tone is light, energetic and humorous. Honestly, this looks and feels more like a Richard Linklater film than it does a product of Quentin Tarantino. It looks like we’re set to see him showcase another side of himself, paying homage to the age of the New Hollywood and the desperate departure from the classical – both periods that the director owes a great deal to. His films – in general – often feel like vast celebrations of cinema. 

Tarantino’s primary concern here may be to reflect and capture 1969, similarly to Linklater’s treatment of 1976 with Dazed and Confused; chasing the vibe rather than the narrative. It was a pivotal year, ’69. The release of Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider confirmed that everything was about to change, and the scene in which we see Pitt arguing on (what looks like) the set of a martial-arts production comments on this too. Films like Enter the Dragon and stars like Bruce Lee were on the way to storm Hollywood, and we’re on the cusp of this fascinating change, accompanied by old-schoolers Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. 

Overall impressions from the trailer are positive. It looks like Tarantino is ready to strip back some of his common associations to take us back to a time when everything was changing. DiCaprio, Pitt and the surrounding cast look like they’ll deliver memorable performances, and with Tarantino’s knowledge and respect for the period, audiences can expect to learn something about the films which have undoubtedly influenced Tarantino’s life and career. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood could prove to be one of the best films of the year. 

In other news, is Denis Villeneuve’s Dune on track for success?