Six days after I was born, to only very localised interest, “Bullitt” was released to universal critical acclaim and global box-office success.

It’s fairly safe to say that the film has aged rather better than I have in the intervening years, particularly if one discounts the alarming pyjamas that Steve McQueen sports in one of the opening scenes.

A tense, slow-burning thriller that set the template for maverick cop yarns for years to come, “Bullitt” had a style of its own.

Long, almost wordless scenes that quietly ratcheted up the tension, a slow and assured pacing that never needed a jump cut to keep your attention, realistically mundane dialogue, an effortlessly cool soundtrack from Lalo Schifrin and the sort of actors who knew how to convey emotions and intent with no more than a slight facial movement.

Oh, and that car chase.

Steve McQueen is the very expression of cool, oozing a calm and confident authority – even when pressurised by politicians and angry bosses, he remains still and stoic.

Perhaps he had learned by then that fidgeting around on screen, as he had done to Yul Brynner’s annoyance in “The Magnificent Seven” wasn’t the only way to command attention.

Here, he holds us all – and Jacqueline Bisset – in the palm of his hand right from the start, with an economy of effort and as few words as possible.

Somehow, he gets away with wearing a brown tweed jacket with elbow patches and a blue turtleneck too.

He’s that cool.

Brown and blue, together at last

If there is a fault to be found, then perhaps it comes during that car chase.

If one looks carefully, a green VW Beetle can be seen on more than one occasion during the same part of the chase sequence.

You again?

Before the advent of CGI and green screens and weightless, insubstantial crash-bang-wallop destruction derbies, this was how car chases got filmed.

You can feel every moment of it.

That’s why it’s still worth watching, all these years later.

Published by johnelsewhere1968

Thoughtful wanderer in search of virtual meaning

4 thoughts on “Bullitt

  1. Another great post, John. Get outta my head!

    Do you know the DBT song “Steve McQueen”? Speaks to the Bullitt chase scene, but with a bit more of a focus on Faye Dunaway and Allie MacGraw than on Jackie.


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