Almost in breadth and depth of a documentary, this movie depicts an auto race during the 70s on the world's hardest endurance course: Le Mans in France. The race goes over 24 hours on 14.5 ... See full summary »
Lee H. Katzin
High profile San Francisco Police Lieutenant Frank Bullitt is asked personally by ambitious Walter Chalmers, who is in town to hold a US Senate subcommittee hearing on organized crime, to guard Johnny Ross, a Chicago based mobster who is about to turn evidence against the organization at the hearing. Chalmers wants Ross' safety at all cost, or else Bullitt will pay the consequences. Bullitt and his team of Sergeant Delgetti and Detective Carl Stanton have Ross in protective custody for 48 hours over the weekend until Ross provides his testimony that upcoming Monday. Bullitt's immediate superior, Captain Samuel Bennet, gives Bullitt full authority to lead the case, no questions asked for any move Bullitt makes. When an incident occurs early during their watch, Bullitt is certain that Ross and/or Chalmers are not telling them the full story to protect Ross properly. Without telling Bennet or an incensed Chalmers, Bullitt clandestinely moves Ross while he tries to find out who is after ... Written by
Pay close attention during the car chase at Steve McQueen's reflection in the mirror. If you look at his mouth, you'll see that he's indulging in popular habit among race car drivers: He's chewing gum. See more »
When the detective in the hotel with Ross calls Bullitt at 1:00am, Bullitt says he will be there in 5 minutes. Yet when he gets there multiple police, ambulances, and detective Delgetti are already there. See more »
What a change of pace this movie is as compared with its genre today. I'm no old fogey but would that modern directors become smart enough take several pages from its book.
The Bullit character is a precursor of Dirty Harry but a bit more cerebral. Stylistically, the director sets the stage beautifully for McQueen's Bullit. The movie has a European feel (director Peter Yates is a Brit) and achieves its dark mood through quiet understatement. The musical score for instance. Today, music is overly used, overly loud and manipulative. (i.e. in case you are not moved by this scene, here are a division of amplified violins to remind you to weep). In 'Bullit' the music is sparingly used and doesn't intrude at all. It complements the directorial style without setting the agenda.
The feeling of reserved naturalism is achieved through editing and dialogue. There really aren't very many lines in the movie and when characters do speak they are very succinct. Notice the last 15-20 minutes of the movie, most of which takes place at the airport. Hardly a line in it. There is none of the chattiness so prevalent today (especially post "Pulp Fiction") which is so tedious (unless the script is tip-top, which is rare).
Editing is, perhaps, its greatest strong point. The many long edits deserve equal credit with the dialogue in setting the low-key mood. The cinema verite dialogue of the airport scenes (and, say, the scene where McQueen and Don Gordon search the trunk) combined with the long cuts add greatly to understated feel while adding realism.
And the performances are top notch. The spare script helps McQueen shine since the taciturn moodiness fits his persona to a tee. There are very fine performances from all of the supporting cast, from Don Gordon to Bisset to Fell to Duvall to Oakland. This is a great movie for watching faces. Note the expressions of the hit men during the chase scene (just another example of this movie letting the little touches speak volumes).
The chase scene certainly deserves its billing as one of the best in movie history. Recently, 'The Transporter' was lauded for its opening chase sequence. The one in 'Bullit' is a marvel compared. In 'The Transporter' sequence I'm not sure there is a cut that lasts more than three seconds. In 'Bullit' it is again the editing which sets it apart here. The long edits give you the feel of acceleration and deceleration, of tire smoke and gears, of wind and the roller coaster San Francisco streets. You are given the time to place yourself in the frame. In short, 'Bullit' uses real craftsmanship. Films like 'The Transporter' use hundreds of quick edits to mimic the danger and immediacy of 'Bullit' but it comes across as hot air, confusion instead of clarity. The two scenes are perfect set pieces of easy (and hollow) Mtv-style flash versus real directorial substance.
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