Inherent Vice's drug-induced fever-dream-like cinematography has been responsible for the most striking movie so far in 2015. Love it or hate it, Paul Thomas Anderson's purposefully convoluted '70s throwback has been one of the most contested films in recent memory. I've yet to see someone who hasn't had to take a few hours of post-screening thoughts before making up their mind on the picture. The thing about Inherent Vice is that it rarely makes total sense, but when its trip is so charmingly cool and silly it's hard to completely write the whole thing off. Plus, what it might lack in narrative substance it certainly makes up for cinematic style.

When I first saw the trailer for Anderson's film I made the claim that Inherent Vice looked like it would be the most accommodating movie the director had made to date. That it would be more accessible to a wider audience. That it wouldn't be as impenetrable as say, The Master. In hindsight I'm glad I didn't put any money on that, because I'm currently in the process of cooking a great stew made up of my own words. Rather the opposite of approachable, Inherent Vice is impenetrable and it knows it. It sits with a smug grin the entire time as you figure out what's going on, laughing as every logical conclusion you come to turns out to be entirely wrong. And then it sticks up two fingers, has a toke on its joint and rides off into the sunset.

It's the overshadowing reminder of this shameless confidence that makes you realise in hindsight just how much the visuals in Inherent Vice save it from becoming pretentiously overbearing. Spot-on visual humour, a kinetic energy and an off-beat atmosphere stop the messy plot from making the movie a chore to watch. Distinct characters are formed with individual looks that become instantly recognisable, and a faithfully recreated '70s L.A looks as gorgeous as you'd imagine. The sheer variety of locations allows Inherent Vice to stay fresh and creative with each scene, keeping the film feeling light and enjoyable while enforcing a truly distinct and lovingly crafted cinematic aesthetic.

From the cinematography to the film stock, everything about Inherent Vice energises its 1970s buzz. Obviously helped by an almost too good soundtrack, Inherent Vice is a cinematic rejoice of '70s gritty kitsch from beginning to end. The washed out pallet of the movie means that it looks as similar in colour and texture as any film is really going to get to imitating the '70s look, while an adherence to subtle archaic framing and set-ups enforces a completely immersive authenticity to the dated cinematic style. Hidden in background are a few techniques that might go unnoticed; a sort of warped sound mix, an occasional jankiness to the editing and primitive screen-wipes provide the small but hugely important details that sell Inherent Vice's rugged aesthetic. This isn't just a vintage instagram filter slapped over a Paul Thomas Anderson Film.

But the dated aesthetic does allow for some modern quirks; in fact Inherent Vice blends classic and contemporary cinematography to embellish a moody, and often striking atmosphere. As is retro '70s homage tradition, Inherent Vice makes the best out of its colourful neons and its perfect sun-kissed L.A. backdrop. The vivid colour contrast not only allows for particularly photogenic and atmospheric shots, but the hazy intensity of the cinematography exudes the druggy strung-out feel of the movie. Inherent Vice shares a similar sensibility with the equally stylized Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that also romanticizes the seedier parts of the city through distinctly unique cinematography. Interestingly, at times the grainy look and bright colour shadows Inherent Vice in an almost Grindhouse visage; part B movie and part oscar bait, it's an aesthetic that the film pulls off weirdly well.

Inherent Vice ultimately shines just because of how much passion has been poured into creating a clearly realised cinematic universe. As an audience, you want to be incompetently investigating with Doc across a hippy infested beach. You want to be butting heads and getting into scrapes with Detective Bigfoot in the claustrophobic police HQ. In its commitment to '70s LA, the movie references and imitates cinema styles of the time through its cinematography; one scene might evoke memories of a failed network TV show in its framing while another might be edited in way that's reminiscent of '70s exploitation flicks. Juggling the different aesthetics and a variety of alternately inspired scenes, Inherent Vice's L.A is home to a multitude of cinematic playgrounds. Whether it's an overly foggy film noir shipping dock or the extravagant home of a grotesquely rich junkie tycoon, every place Inherent Vice takes you on during its eccentric acid trip pulses with creativity and life.

Inherent Vice is out now.